The new school year brings new beginnings and opportunities to improve safety and security. We must continually identify hazards, threats, and vulnerabilities that can endanger life or damage property. Follow these tips to help your schools stay safe, secure, and better prepared.
Review your plans
An Emergency Operations Plan (EOP) and supporting documents provide a framework that can be adapted to prepare your organization for a variety of situations. EOPs and incident action plans must incorporate after-school activities, daycare facilities, athletic practices, field trips, field days, staff training, and other activities.
Review school district and campus emergency management and safety plans annually:
- Incorporate lessons learned from the prior school year and update the plan accordingly.
- Make sure your EOP reflects new or updated regulations and directives.
- Perform an updated hazard analysis that considers how threats to the organization and the community might change over time.
Remember that EOP reviews are on the list of state-mandated security initiatives that schools must complete by September 1.
Train and practice
Employee training, drills, and exercises are foundational activities in the emergency management process. They ensure emergency operations plans are clear, workable, and actionable.
- Perform annual training on emergency management plans and annexes to ensure all staff understand their roles during a response. Training should include all staff, teachers, and substitutes.
- Deliver new-employee training and refresher training on basic first aid and stop the bleed early in the new school year. Remember that training must be led by a certified and trusted vendor.
- Include tabletop exercises in your preparedness activities. Tabletop exercises give employees hands-on experience in a low-risk, cost-effective environment. The process might also uncover resource requirements, capability gaps, strengths, improvement opportunities, and best practices.
- Leverage the Texas School Safety Center for training on school behavioral threat assessments, digital threat assessments and plan development.
Use these tips from the Secret Service to build a threat assessment program in your district. The program will help you identify and address behavior that could lead to violence.
Level up your physical security
Natural and man-made hazards threaten school safety and security. When a disaster happens, everyone should be ready to respond safely and effectively. Regularly scheduled safety and security assessments should include a review of conditions for each facility in the school district or college.
Follow these tips to evaluate safety and security in your facilities:
- Conduct intruder assessments, making sure doors are working properly and are locked, and staff follows visitor management protocols.
- Evaluate internal and external communication systems by testing communications software and functionality.
- Collaborate with local emergency management personnel and first responders throughout the process by including them on the organization’s Safe and Secure School Committee.
Focus on security year-round
Because many campus activities continue during extended breaks, you should apply or adapt your visitor management and building security procedures year-round. All campus visitors, including contractors and maintenance support not regularly employed by the district, should be subject to visitor management protocols and made aware of safety and security expectations.
Review evacuation maps
As district staff perform walk-throughs of campuses, they should look at each classroom and office to ensure that updated evacuation maps are posted, in good shape, and legible. All maps should be posted in an area unobscured by other items such as art, shelving, supplies, or emergency folders and information. Maps should be standardized, site-specific, and shared with response agencies.
Review your medical care kits
Items in first aid and stop the bleed kits have a shelf life. Purchase your kits from trusted vendors, and review them regularly to ensure they’re stocked, clean, and not expired.
Check emergency supplies
Classroom and district go-kits are essential to school emergency preparedness and response. These kits contain items to support response to a variety of emergencies, so they need to be evaluated and inventoried annually to ensure all supplies are included, in good condition, and up to date.
Take advantage of these school security resources
Schools constantly explore opportunities to strengthen their security programs. The Fund is here to support you with information, resources, and guidance:
For more information on school safety and security or for assistance on any of the topics discussed in this article, contact TASB Emergency Management and School Security Consultant Melanie Moss at firstname.lastname@example.org or 512.505.2868.