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Safety & Security in Schools

Safety & Security in Schools


  1. Questions for leadership
  2. Immediate Actions
  3. Technology for School Safety
  4. Visual Security
  5. Identification Systems Group Dealers
  6. Resources Cited

The safety and security of schools is on the minds of educators today. It is vital that plans, processes and systems be in place to protect people and property.

1. Questions for education leadership

  • What do we owe our community in terms of safety and security?
  • How do we implement good, common sense security in times of limited budgets?
  • Is there a belief that "it can't happen here" or "it can't be prevented"?
  • If we ignore recommendations and common solutions being implemented elsewhere, how does that affect our community image and liability?

Safety and security is not a simple task, it requires an immense amount of planning, documentation, training, and investment. Security risk assessments, emergency preparedness, crisis planning, working with local law enforcement, and training are among the details. The long list of possible recommendations and technology choices can be difficult to understand and prioritize. However, it needs to be accomplished!

From the book, School Security, How to Build and Strengthen a School Safety Program, by Paul Timm, the keys to school security are:

  1. Commitment from the Top
  2. Performance Accountability
  3. Good relationship with Emergency Responders

2. Immediate Actions
For starters, here are six recommendations for local schools administrators to immediately implement. From Patrick V. Fiel, Sr. January 26, 2013.

I. Make security a top priority. All schools must have their current risk assessment plans reviewed and updated by an experienced education security expert. Then administrators must strictly enforce any and all new safety and security policies and procedures.
II. Implement a closed-campus policy. All schools, especially elementary schools, must be closed to outsiders until they are cleared to enter through a single entrance controlled by a video intercom. All other doors should remain locked throughout the day. Once a visitor is approved to enter, he or she must check in at the office and present government-issued identification to be screened by a visitor management system that checks databases for registered sex offenders.
III. Finance school security improvements. Properly securing a campus is not inexpensive and may require making difficult decisions to reallocate internal budgets. Both public and private grants Safety & Security in Schools 3 may be available to help offset costs. The websites for federal and state departments of education are a good place to start looking for grants and how to obtain them.
IV. Build strong relationships with local law enforcement. If a district does not already have aregularly assigned officer for each campus, administrators should ask the police chief, sheriff or state police to make special assignments during school hours. Law enforcement response to an emergency needs to be in a range of one to three minutes to be effective.
V. Encourage parents to get involved. Parents can be a tremendous force in lobbying legislators or additional funding for school security. And parents need to make sure that any firearms inthe home are securely stored and accounted for.
VI. Get students and teachers involved in their own safety. Students and teachers are oftenhesitant to report what they see and hear on campus for fear of retribution. One option is tocreate a hotline and website that students and teachers can contact anonymously to reportsuspicious activities.

There are dozens of articles and papers on the subject of school security technology. The following is a compilation of the some of the most common recommendations. 

3. What most security experts recommend for schools
Building Actions:

I. Develop campus lockdown procedures and drills. Practice those drills during different times of the day.
II. Consider stronger windows and doors at entrances. Consider perimeter fencing to deter trespassing and to limit access.
III. Limit campus entries, only one entrance and lock entrances when school is in session.
IV. Use a vestibule/double entry system with intercom/video call box at main entrance. If possible,make sure when a visitor enters the school, their only option is to go into the school office forvisual verification.
V. Implement strong electronic visitor registration with national sex offender and barred listdatabase check.
VI. Accountability & Reunification. Have the capability to track people that are in the buildingand/or at a muster point.
VII. Implement door access control systems. When someone loses a traditional key, the only way todeactivate the lost key is to rekey the entire building. Card access systems can be implementedas an alternative means to controlled access, allowing you to grant and restrict access to specificareas. You can produce reports on who has accessed each door and when.
VIII. Video surveillance systems give greater visibility, and can be integrated with door access controland crisis lockdown systems.
IX. Install a crisis lockdown system with communication, notification and panic buttons.Communications include labeled telephones, PA, intercom, two-way radios and cell phones.
X. Implement an anonymous tip hotline for the district to be used by teachers, parents or students.

Personnel Actions:

I. Undergo a risk assessment and develop a comprehensive emergency response/crisis plan that isupdated yearly.
II. Create an emergency response team using teachers, law enforcement, emergency service personnel, mental health professionals, school counselors, facilities personnel, office personnel,student leaders and parent representation.
III. Work with local first responders and develop a close relationship.Safety & Security in Schools 4
IV. In conjunction with the first responders, develop an Incident Response plan. Train staff to usethe National Incident Management System (NIMS).
V. Involve students and staff, train on situational awareness and educate parents.
VI. Staff monitoring of arrival and dismissal times.
VII. ALL students, faculty/staff AND visitors should be required to WEAR an ID badge. Visualidentification is a major component of an overall security program. This means that evenstudents must wear their ID while on campus.
VIII. Designated school personnel arriving at the outside meeting area (muster point) should beresponsible for taking a headcount that includes all personnel and visitors.

4. Technology for School Safety
Of course, technology plays an important role in school safety and security. A wide variety of security technology is available from many different vendors. This presents many questions. What technology is the most effective and widely deployed? Which systems need to be integrated so they work together?How do I get the most for our investment? Do I have to work with so many different vendors?

Research firm IHS Inc. released a report in July 2013 that predicts the market for security system integration in educational institutions is set to expand to $4.9 billion in 2017, up from $2.7 billion in 2012. Security system integration includes design, consultancy, installation, service, maintenance and security equipment.

From the book, School Security, How to Build and Strengthen a School Safety Program, by Paul Timm: If people are the number one asset in schools, the first hour of planning and the first dollar of spending should be spent on addressing two areas: communications and access control. Nothing protects people better than effective communications and access control. Without excellent communications, Murphy's Law is bound to find you in a situation where you need help but cannot contact someone or in circumstances where an emergency announcement was made but you could not receive it. Where access control is concerned, too many schools operate with ineffective visitor management procedures and, at any given time, have no way of accounting for those that are in the facility or have left the facility. The point of this discussion can be summed up with a challenge: Invest in improving communications and access control!

5. Visual Security (ID badging)
An effective visual security program means that ALL people in the school be identified and wear an ID. In the case of middle and high schools, that also means students. There is a growing trend where schools are requiring students to wear their ID. These schools combine the requirement with incentives or privilege loss to gain compliance.

For visitors, adhesive stickers don't work very well. They are not very visible, tend to fall off, or be placed under a coat. It is recommended that the sticker be placed on a tag and worn on a visible, color coded lanyard. A variety of red lanyards printed with VISITOR are available today.

6. Local Identification Systems Group Dealers
The 32 Identification Systems Group dealers are your local on-site resource. Their knowledgeable field sales and technical staffs provide the in-person consultation you need. They offer a variety of systems. Integration of these systems to a central identity/security database is a very important benefit.

  • ID card systems for producing student, faculty and staff cards. The system should connect to your central people database and create an identity/security database for integrating with other systems like door access control, visitor registration, and people tracking.
  • Visitor registration systems to produce visitor tags. These systems can verify the visitor against a sex offender database as well as an internal barred list (terminated employees, expelled students), and maintains the list of who is in the building at any time. This system connects to the identity/security database so a log of visitors is maintained and the "who to see" list is automatically maintained.
  • Door access control systems can be wired or wireless. The system is integrated with the identity/security database so that privileges are assigned the moment the ID card is issued and revoked when removed from the central people database.
  • Video surveillance systems can be integrated with access control and crisis lockdown alert systems.
  • Tracking system used in case of evacuation, an electronic tracking system lets you to know who is in your building, or track people at an event or at a muster point. Again, the key is being integrated with your identity/security database so all groups of people are included. We offer a simple system to record faculty & staff times so they can be included in the data
  • Notification and Crisis Lockdown Alert Status System provides the color code recommended by FEMA in electronic form. It notifies school officials, calls law enforcement, triggers email, text, cameras, and electronically locks down the school. Officials and authorities see real time floor plan status, video, and chat messaging from any electronic device.
  • One-way radio allows a teacher to receive instant communication from the Principal, Secretary, Resource Officer, or Director during any emergency or crisis.
  • Incident Command Systems (ICS) to local and state first responders and are knowledgeable of the National Incident Management System (NIMS). They can be a resource in working with local first responders.

Your local ISG dealer can assist you in determining the best and most cost effective solutions to meet your needs. They are available for on-site presentations and consultation.

This whitepaper is informational and should not be used as a specific plan for your school.

About the author:
Tom Stiles is the Executive Director of Identifications Group. He has 37 years of experience in the identification industry, including extensive work with the education market.

Tom Stiles
Identification Systems Group

7. Resources Cited
Ajay Jain. Physical Identity and Access Management Software Can Address Many Challenges. Campus Safety Magazine. October 17, 2013.

Beverly Vigue. K-12 Access Control's Weak Link: Visitor Verification. Campus Safety Magazine. May 11, 2011.

Brad Spicer. 11 Components of a Secure School Front Entrance. Campus Safety Magazine. October 11, 2013.

FEMA. Introduction to the Incident Command System for Schools. October 31, 2013.

Patrick V. Fiel, Sr. After Sandy Hook, let's not repeat the cycle of inaction. January 26, 2013.

Paul Timm, School Security, How to Build and Strengthen a School Safety Program, by Paul Timm, PSP, published by Elsevier

Reducing and Controlling School Access.

Schools' Deployment of Security Equipment Projected to Rise. Campus Safety Magazine. December 12, 2013.

State of Idaho. Recommended Steps.

State of Minnesota. Safe Schools Assessment Checklist.

State of New Hampshire. Physical Security Self-Assessment Guidelines for School Buildings Pre K-12. May 15, 2013.

US Department of Homeland Security. K-12 School Security Practices Guide. April 2013.