3 proactive school safety measures leaders can take in 2022
School safety is a collaborative responsibility and connecting all of the key stakeholders to keep students, faculty, and staff safe is essential
After a lull in threats of violence early in the pandemic, we are once again seeing tragic stories of deadly shootings and acts of violence as schools reopen. Schools and educators are in difficult positions and looking for ways to keep kids and staff safe. Nationwide, schools are preparing for potentially harmful threats, putting precautions in place, and evolving the school safety landscape.
As a parent of school-aged children, I received notifications regarding the recent threats that trended on Tik Tok in December. Local authorities, the FBI, district leaders and school security teams all worked together to monitor the situation. But what proactive safety and security measures can schools be taking?
Here are three ways schools can reduce potential safety risks before and during an emergency.
Take a holistic approach to school safety
It is critical that school leaders consider school safety across all phases of an incident: how do we prepare better in advance of an emergency? How do we surface tips and critical information from our communities that provide early indications of issues? What happens after the incident occurs – how do we restore normalcy? This type of holistic approach considers each stage of an emergency: preparedness, response, and recovery.
David Riedman, lead researcher for the K-12 School Shooting Database, shared a few strategies with the Washington Post. One beneficial approach is to host crisis response trainings that provide the opportunity for students to speak up if someone they know may be in crisis. To this end, pre-emptive resources such as anonymous tip solutions have been shown to be effective as most attackers share their plans with at least one other person.
Anonymous tip solutions can allow students and their communities to instantly relay information anonymously concerning unsafe or potentially harmful activities, or the threat of these activities, to the appropriate law enforcement agencies and school officials.
Restoring normalcy after an emergency is also an important element to a holistic approach. For instance, after the deadly school shooting at Oxford High School in Michigan, administrators enacted new measures to hire additional security personnel, provide trauma response training for staff, and make trauma specialists available to students. A holistic strategy considers both the physical safety and mental health impacts of such a horrific event.
Deploy proven school safety technology
As schools navigate safety threats both old and new, they need proven technology that can directly connect 9-1-1, first responders, and on-site personnel to activate an immediate response to an emergency.
Effectively deploying safety technology can make a major difference during an emergency, and help students and staff feel better protected. Schools must evaluate technology options that address all types of events, such as active assailants, medical emergencies, or safety drills.The tools must deliver rapid and clear communication to expedite response and ensure better outcomes when emergencies occur.
Panic button apps and school safety solutions can support the entire school community. With one tool, students, administrators, security professionals and first responders can access the information they need to address any situation. For example, during a medical emergency, a teacher can activate a panic button app to share a student’s exact location with 9-1-1 dispatchers and first responders to save crucial time.
Break down information silos
Another strategy for schools to prioritize is overcoming the information silos between the emergency caller, 9-1-1, and first responders. According to information now available about Parkland, multiple agencies responded but could not communicate with each other effectively—or, in some cases, at all. The 9-1-1 calls made from the school were slow to be disseminated and it took more than 20 minutes for law enforcement to access school video to see what the shooter looked like.
Information sharing and interoperability between systems are important to enable communication and collaboration amongst response teams. Delays in communication and information sharing can mean limited situational awareness for first responders in the midst of an emergency. When lives are at stake, it’s critical that every responder has up-to-date information on the status of a situation, how each unit is responding, and where help is needed.
During a lockdown or shelter in place, information sharing can allow teachers and staff to report their location and status of their students in real-time so responders can help those with the most pressing needs first. Interoperable systems can also allow for integrated planning and coordination between schools and emergency response agencies. For example, if an armed robbery takes place near a school, police can proactively inform the school to take appropriate precautions rather than the administrator and staff being unaware of potential risks. Breaking down information silos can provide access to critical information like floor plans and student/faculty rosters which are useful for response coordination.
Create safe places for learning
School safety is a collaborative responsibility and connecting all of the key stakeholders is essential. When a tragic event occurs, it impacts the entire community. To keep students, teachers, and staff safe, schools need to deploy tools for information sharing and interoperability. Working effectively together will help schools be safe places to learn so students can grow, and communities can thrive.