Creating Security Plans for Schools and Educational Facilities
K-12 schools, colleges and universities, and other educational facilities should be safe and secure for both staff and students who deserve an undisrupted education. However, schools are unfortunately not immune to crime.
The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) reported in 2022 that there was a total of 93 school shootings with casualties at both public and private elementary and secondary schools during the 2020-2021 school year, which was more than any other year since data collection began. The steady rise in school shootings has incentivized schools across the nation to improve and develop new safety and security plans.
This article outlines common school security concerns, the unique security challenges faced by schools, school security technology, and how to begin developing a school security plan.
Common School Security Concerns
The School Safety Plan Template for Georgia Public Schools outlines considerations to take when developing a school safety plan, as schools must face unusual demands while having to maintain day-to-day operations. The plan for emergency preparedness includes plans for the following:
- School crises plan roles, responsibilities, and designated locations
- Emergency evacuation protocol
- Intruder/Suspicious Person
- Report of a weapon on campus
- Active attack
- And more
While this template is a good place to start, when beginning the process of developing a school security plan it is important to list and understand common school security concerns.
The Unique Security Challenges of Schools
Schools face a unique set of security challenges due to their role as centers of education and the presence of children and young adults. These challenges include:
- Open Environment: Schools are designed to be open and welcoming to students, staff, and parents. However, this openness can make it easier for unauthorized individuals to enter the premises, posing a security risk.
- Vulnerable Population: Schools primarily serve children and young adults who may not have the capacity to protect themselves in case of emergencies. Ensuring their safety should be a top priority.
- Access Control: Balancing the need for open access to educational facilities with the need for security is a unique challenge. Schools need to allow access to students, staff, and approved visitors while ensuring that unauthorized individuals cannot enter.
- Emergency Response: Schools must have effective emergency response plans for various scenarios, including natural disasters, fires, medical emergencies, and, unfortunately, acts of violence. Coordinating responses and evacuations while safeguarding children is a complex challenge.
- Parental and Custody Disputes: Custody disputes between parents or guardians can create security concerns, as individuals may attempt to remove children from school without proper authorization.
- Active Shooter Threats: Tragically, schools face the unique challenge of potential active shooter incidents. Preparing for and responding to such events requires specialized training and resources.
- Privacy Concerns: Schools must navigate privacy laws and ethical considerations when implementing security technologies that involve monitoring students, staff, and visitors.
- Budget Constraints: Many schools have limited budgets for security measures, making it challenging to invest in advanced technologies and security personnel.
- Training and Awareness: Ensuring that staff and students are well-trained in security procedures and aware of potential threats is crucial. This includes educating them on recognizing and reporting suspicious behaviors.
Addressing these unique security challenges requires a multifaceted approach that involves collaboration between school administrators, law enforcement, and other school security specialists. Moreover, it requires a commitment to creating a safe and nurturing learning environment that supports the well-being of all students and staff.
Invest in School Security Technology
Security technology plays a crucial role in ensuring the safety and well-being of students, staff, and visitors in schools. There are several types of security technology that can be used in schools to enhance security and protect against various threats. Here are some common security technologies used in schools:
Installing surveillance cameras throughout the school premises can deter unwanted intruders and provide real-time monitoring of activities. Remote video monitoring is a proactive and preventative approach to security. Reviewing surveillance footage after an event has occurred is a reactionary approach to security that only focuses on investigating and resolving an incident after it has already occurred.
Intrusion Detection Systems
Intrusion Detection Systems monitor for unauthorized entry or movement within the school when it is supposed to be empty. These systems trigger alarms when motion is detected to VirtuGuard™ for highly trained security professionals to review and respond to immediately. VirtuGuard™ can also review surveillance footage to visually verify an intrusion before dispatching onsite security staff or local law enforcement.
Access Control Management
Below are examples of access control measures your school can take:
- Require ID cards for students, visitors, and staff
- Monitor parking lots for suspicious activity
- Locked doors with electronic access control options, like swipe cards, allow for smooth and easy access, with the ability to monitoring who is entering a building or room and can block unauthorized individuals from specific rooms
- Delegate entry requests to VirtuGuard so that onsite staff can concentrate on human related work and be prepared to respond to emergencies
- Program doors to remain locked outside of approved hours
- Remote unlocking capabilities can grant access to staff an on as-needed basis if they need to access campus outside of set hours
- Keep high-security areas limited to only approved individuals, like staff offices
Visitor Management Systems (VMS)
Delegate your visitor management protocols to VirtuGuard™ so that your staff can focus on other tasks. VirtuGuard™ can remotely grant temporary access for visitors, contractors, and guests. We use visitor management software (VMS) to build a check-in procedure that must be completed to be granted access. VirtuGuard™ can keep a log of visitors and the type of visit as well as analyze access patterns.
Intercom and Public Address Systems
Effective communication is crucial during emergencies. Intercom and PA systems allow administrators to make announcements, issue instructions, and communicate with staff and students quickly. Additionally, VirtuGuard™ can utilize these systems to engage with intruders after hours.
Emergency Notification Systems
Emergency notification systems can send alerts via text, email, or phone to notify students, parents, and staff about emergencies and other critical information.
Developing a School Security Plan
The more comprehensive your school security plan, the better. BOS Security has over thirty years of experience in providing quality security services and our staff has decades of experience in law enforcement. Working with security professionals will ensure that your plan and resulting procedures are as robust as possible.
The specific steps you should take to create a school security plan may vary depending on the size and location of the school, but the following guidelines will help you create a comprehensive security plan:
- Assessment and Analysis: Conduct a comprehensive security assessment of your school, including its physical layout, access points, and vulnerabilities. Identify potential risks and threats that your plan needs to address. Request a comprehensive security assessment from BOS Security here.
- Gather a Security Team: Assemble a security team consisting of school administrators, teachers, security professionals, and local law enforcement agencies. Collaboration and input from various contributors are crucial.
- Establish Goals and Objectives: Clearly define the goals and objectives of your security plan. What are you trying to achieve and what specific threats are you addressing?
- Regulatory Compliance: Ensure that your security plan complies with local, state, and federal laws and regulations. This may include adhering to fire codes, building security standards, and any relevant education laws.
- Risk Mitigation: Develop strategies to mitigate the identified risks and threats. This might include security protocols for various scenarios, from natural disasters to intruders.
- Access Control: Implement access control measures, such as key card entry systems, visitor sign-in procedures, and controlled access points to limit who can enter the school premises.
- Emergency Response Plan: Develop an emergency response plan that covers procedures for evacuations, lockdowns, and medical emergencies. Ensure that everyone is aware of these procedures and conducts regular drills.
- Surveillance and Monitoring: Install security cameras in key areas of the school to monitor activities. BOS Security’s remote video monitoring solution VirtuGuard™ monitors, records, and securely stores surveillance footage from your school to detect and prevent unwanted or threatening behavior.
- Security Personnel and Training: If the school has security personnel, ensure that they are properly trained and equipped. Train staff and students on recognizing potential threats and responding to emergencies.
- Communication Plan: Develop a communication plan for informing parents, students, and staff about emergencies. Establish a system for alerting and notifying relevant parties in real-time.
- Visitor Management: Implement a visitor management system that requires all visitors to sign in and wear identification badges. Restrict visitors’ access to certain areas of the school.
- Cyber Security: Protect the school’s digital assets by implementing cyber security measures. This includes securing student records, financial data, and communication systems.
- Crisis Management: Create a crisis management team and outline their roles and responsibilities in responding to emergencies.
- Community Engagement: Engage with local community and law enforcement agencies to foster a sense of shared responsibility for school security.
- Drills and Training: Conduct regular drills and training exercises to ensure that all stakeholders are familiar with the plan and can respond effectively during emergencies.
- Plan Review and Update: Regularly review and update the school security plan to adapt to changing threats, technologies, and school needs. Consider conducting an annual security audit.
- Resource Allocation: Allocate necessary resources, including funding, to implement and maintain the security plan effectively.
- Testing and Evaluation: Test the plan’s effectiveness through tabletop exercises and evaluate it after each drill or real emergency. Adjust as needed.
- Documentation: Maintain thorough documentation of all security-related policies, procedures, training records, and incident reports.
- Public Awareness: Inform parents and the school community about the security plan, what to expect, and how they can support it.
Remember that school security is an ongoing process, and the plan should be a living document that adapts to new challenges and improvements over time. Regularly revisit and refine your plan to ensure its continued effectiveness.
Ready to Develop Your School Security Plan?
Contact BOS Security today to request a comprehensive security assessment of your school. Our security experts can assist you in identifying threats and vulnerabilities, mitigating potential risks, and developing a plan to respond to emergencies quickly and effectively when they occur.
Contact BOS Security today or call 404-793-6965 today to get started.