3 Steps to Create and Implement a School Safety Plan

From school shootings and natural disasters to vandalism, unauthorized access, and physical violence, school safety plans are more necessary than ever. Unfortunately, nearly half of all states in the U.S. don’t require teachers and staff to receive safety training. In fact, in some states, such as North Carolina, half of the school districts don’t even have their own official school safety plan.

While it is impossible to predict the details of every possible incident, developing a comprehensive school safety plan can prime schools for preparation.

Creating a school safety plan should be every district’s top priority.

Before we outline the three steps to creating a school safety plan, it’s important to emphasize that:

  • A school safety plan is different from a security plan. A safety plan is a component of school security. It focuses primarily on awareness among students, teachers, staff, and the greater school community. Key components of safety plans are prevention, preparedness, response, and recovery. Security, on the other hand, is preventative in nature, the first step towards safety: a weakness in security creates increased risk, which in turn decreases safety.
  • Schools and emergency responders must operate as a team: In an emergency, local police and fire departments will respond first. Establish open lines of communication between school administration and the authorities. Additionally, they must work together to develop a customized plan for the school’s emergency procedure that will permit emergency responders to do their job if the time ever comes for them to intervene when they arrive. 
  • Practice. School districts and sites may find it beneficial to conduct real-life simulations of a crisis situation. Safety drills can affirm that everyone knows what to do in an emergency. This repetition can also help identify the school’s potential weak spots and high-risk areas.
  • School safety is just like home safety. A school safety plan may sound overwhelming, but it is similar to protecting your home. How would your family respond to a burglary? Where do the children go for safety? Who calls the police? Is the fire alarm working correctly? Who is in charge of locking all the doors and windows every night? Creating a school safety plan is similar, but on a larger scale and in more significant numbers.

Remember, schools aren’t just responsible for more than educating children; their primary duty is to keep children safe. When you consider how many school shootings happen in America each year, as well as other potential threats, districts must invest in schools to prepare them for crises and ensure they are empowered to be responsible for each child’s safety.

How to Create a Comprehensive School Safety Plan

Step #1: Conduct a Threat Assessment

Schools should have designated Safety Planning teams that collaborate with law enforcement and School Resource Officers (SROs). Local police and other external resources should begin by assessing the campus layout and evaluating the premises’ vulnerabilities. 

The local police can guide decisions about which areas of the school grounds should be reinforced. Threat assessments should cover the interior and exterior of the school building, encompassing the entirety of the school grounds. 

Security professionals recommend approaching this process by visualizing three rings around the school entrance, similar to a target’s bullseye:

If you were to stand at the entrance of your school and look 200 yards out in every direction, that entire perimeter would be considered the “green ring”-threats in this area do not pose an immediate danger to children. Anything 100 yards out would be considered the “yellow ring.” Schools want to be alert to anybody trespassing in this area. Finally, the school building itself is the red zone: the no-entry area, the fortress of safety. 

Visualizing rings around the school campus brings awareness to the importance of prevention. Not all threats of violence are internal. For example, parents, disgruntled ex-employees, or students on probation are all examples of threats that could gain unauthorized access to the school to cause harm.

But suppose you visualize ‘rings’ around the school. In that case, you can determine that anybody within the yellow ring should have official permission to be on campus. By thinking in terms of ‘rings,’ schools can create additional layers of security checkpoints to prevent threats from gaining entry. 

In other words, how can you mitigate potential threats from gaining entry and keep danger away from the school?

Potential solutions to discuss could include include, but are not limited to:

  • Security cameras 
  • Gates/gate guards
  • Automated lighting systems
  • Key fobs/access control
  • Radio systems

To truly prepare for emergencies, it’s critical to remember that threat assessments and prevention must be ongoing conversations. Have a plan to review your threat assessment at least once a year to ensure that the effectiveness of your safety plan is up-to-date and relevant.

Step 2: Invest in Physical Barriers

Addressing a school’s vulnerable access points is critical to incident prevention and risk mitigation. Once you identify weak points from Step #1, it’s time to actually invest in security solutions.

For example, if keeping unauthorized visitors off campus is a challenge, then a gated system is one way to control access to the school property, thereby preventing unauthorized visitors.

 Suppose doors to the building are constantly left unlocked. In that case, an automated key fob or access code control system can provide higher security. This system is automated and does not depend on staff. 

Similarly, what if students continue to bring banned contraband and weapons into the school? In that case, a walk-through metal detector may be an option for some school districts. 

Other physical barriers could be in the form of policy: many school districts now have a rule that parents are not permitted to accompany their children into the school for drop-off and pick-up. Schools developed this policy to prevent adult/parental conflict from entering the school building.

However, instituting physical barriers is difficult because no one wants their school to look or feel like a prison.

All parents, teachers, and students want safe schools, but they also desire an open, welcoming environment that fosters creativity and community. A school safety plan must take this into consideration.

Fortunately, there are resources available to address this concern:

Bullet-resistant glass laminate, for example, is virtually undetectable. Optically clear laminate is engineered and designed to be installed discreetly over windows, building glass, glass doors, and door glass panels – protecting against shooting incidents 24/7. This barrier works stealthily and dependably in the background, without relying on people or electricity to function, with or without electricity. Once installed, glass laminate is the only barrier that operates continuously without making itself known.

Every deterrent buys the school precious time until law enforcement arrives. Every school should strive to create as many obstacles as possible between potential threats and the students inside the building.

Studies show that if an assailant is thwarted at least two times by some barrier or interruption, it is likely that you can buy enough time to delay the attack and have enough time for an emergency response to arrive.

Step 3: Harden Your People and Train Your Staff

The final step of a school safety plan is to ensure that teachers, staff, and students are adequately trained for an emergency.

Have teachers been adequately prepared to take action in specific emergency situations? Are students aware of the protocol? Is the staff empowered to help and equipped with the necessary knowledge, preparation, and skills to implement it for their safety? Does everyone in the individual buildings on the campus have an action plan specific to their area and team? Are school leaders confident they could employ emergency intervention in a violent attack? Have they had enough practice to know the best practices for incidents most likely to happen? Has the emergency procedure been practiced and timed?

When there is a dangerous incident, every second counts. Every second is a life.

During emergencies, though, adrenaline and fear take command of our decision-making skills. People are fallible and often freeze in the face of danger. For this reason, it’s critical to invest in ongoing education, emergency training, and plenty of practice.

The goal of training your team is to equip them to help break the attack cycle, thereby giving the school as much time as possible until first responders can arrive.

Professional crisis training gives teachers and faculty members the knowledge necessary to keep their school community safe.

How Clear-Armor Can Help Protect Your School Community

In addition to our world-class bullet-resistant glass laminates, Clear-Armor is a leading provider of critical life-saving skills and crisis training. We help save lives by partnering with schools to establish a tailored emergency response plan beyond the generic school safety plan templates found online.

Furthermore, security professionals with military and combat experience helped develop Clear-Armor’s TruTrauma crisis training curriculum. We aim to ensure your team is trained to handle even the most severe crisis incidents.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are There Templates for School Safety Plans?

While there are online resources, a proper school safety plan will focus on the district’s unique needs, population, individual school buildings, and campus layout. Developing such a plan goes far beyond what a generic online template can provide.

What Can Parents and Families Do to Help?

If you have kids in school, ask about the security and safety practices already in place. From PTAs to attending school board meetings, parents can help advocate for their children and shape these procedures. It’s not uncommon for parents to research solutions and present them to their school district for review.

How Can We Pay for Crisis Training?

When you install bullet-proof glass laminate over 2,500 sq. ft., TruTrauma support is included for the staff. Many options are available for those only interested in crisis training, including grants, fundraising, and loans.

Why Is Crisis Training Essential?

Crisis training and safety procedures are proven to work in emergencies. Developing a safety plan for your school site is just one-half of the vital equation. The other half is ensuring your team knows their specific role in the event of a crisis and has the skills necessary to jump into action when and if that time comes.

Conclusion

Teachers and schools have always provided children with more than an academic education: they teach civility, teamwork, friendship, and community. But at the core of every school’s duty is that every child makes it home safely at the end of the day. The responsibilities of teachers and staff go beyond instruction. A school safety plan will ensure this by promoting the welfare and safety of every student.

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