After meeting with our school members over the past month, it is evident that the sense of safety in our schools has been compromised. As a result of the tactics used in Florida, we have learned that during fire drills some teachers are delaying their evacuation until the legitimacy of the drill is confirmed by the principal through the intercom. Although it is understandable why teachers would take such an action, this must be avoided.
Action must be taken to restore the sense of safety for your students, staff, and parents. If you are not sure where to start, here are a few suggestions:
- Work with your school resource officers and local law enforcement authorities to review, update, or develop a policy to address an active shooter on campus. This policy should be reflected in your District Emergency Operations Plan and each of your campuses’ Comprehensive School Safety Plans.
- Identify and develop a plan to mitigate vulnerabilities at your campuses. REMS, Readiness and Emergency Management for Schools, has developed tools to assist with this task. These include a downloadable worksheet (Word Document) and also a mobile app for completing vulnerability assessments of your sites. The assessment examines site safety, security, accessibility, and emergency preparedness.
- Develop a threat assessment team (TAT). Research shows that perpetrators of targeted acts of violence engage in both covert and overt behaviors preceding their attacks. For more about threat assessment teams, read this article from the FBI.
- Conduct drills. Train your staff how to respond during an act of violence on campus. Local law enforcement authorities typically offer free active shooter training to school personnel. We have learned that some sites are also conducting student drills; if so, create age appropriate verbiage that does not induce fear. For elementary students, call it a safety drill instead of an active shooter drill. Be sure to also conduct drills during vulnerable times of the day, such as during recess, lunch, and assemblies.
Completing these action items may take months and even years (i.e. mitigating vulnerabilities), so it’s important to communicate your plan of action to your staff, students, parents, and community members. This is not an exhaustive list. Other items to consider include anonymous reporting tools (such as StopiT) and working with students via non-profit organizations such as Community Matters’ Safe School Ambassadors. For further assistance, please contact EIA’s Loss Prevention Department.