By Cecil Anderson
February 24th, 2020
As students, teachers, and personnel file through the doors of your school every day, they all share one purpose: to prepare children for life.
Today, however, school safety and security are taking priority over reading, writing, and arithmetic. If the education environment isn’t safe, then learning will undoubtedly suffer. Security is vital to the well-being of everyone involved in the educational environment.
There are simple ways you can boost school security quickly without having to make large investments. The ideas below can be applied to schools and districts of all sizes to promote learning and safety. Many are a great complement to the surveillance and access control systems you may already have in place.
1. Regularly Inspect Exterior Doors and Windows
At least monthly, walk the building and look for signs of forced entry. Inspect exterior doors and windows for broken hardware and damage (to glass, frames, hinges, mullions, etc.).
By checking these potential access points frequently, you can identify potential problems sooner – such as a malfunctioning door lock – and address them quickly.
As you conduct the inspections, make note of any doors or windows that are repeatedly being tampered with or propped open. They may call for video surveillance, access control, or another type of security solution.
2. Maximize Visibility in Areas You Want to Observe
By removing places to hide or loiter, you reduce potential threats and give off the impression that school grounds are being monitored.
Maximize visibility by doing things like relocating dumpsters, trimming low-hanging tree branches, moving large rocks and boulders, and taking out tall shrubs or bushes that cover large areas.
3. Create a Single Point of Entry
If possible, keep all doors locked throughout the day. Clearly mark the main entrance and post signs on other doors that redirect everyone there.
By funneling people through one area that can be closely monitored – whether through video surveillance or by personnel – you create a form of natural access control and can observe everyone entering and exiting the building.
4. Require an ID
Whether it’s a parent, volunteer, contractor, or guest speaker who comes through your doors, send them through the main office where they can show an ID.
From there, they should be required to sign in and receive a badge to keep with them as they move throughout the school, indicating who they are and why they’re inside the building. Don’t let personnel or students “cheat” the system by opening side doors for strangers – or even for people they recognize.
5. Use Your Intercom/PA System to Communicate
Even if you don’t have a specialized emergency communication or mass notification system in place, most schools do have an intercom/PA system. A properly maintained intercom system is a reliable way to share vital information during an emergency. And because the system is used every day for announcements and paging, your staff already know how to use it.
6. Create or Update Your Emergency Preparedness Plan
If you don’t have an emergency preparedness plan in place, now’s a great time to get started. If you have a plan, but haven’t revisited it lately, take time to go through it and make updates.
It should include emergency personnel information, evacuation plans, escape routes, rules for family communication, school floorplans, as well as outlines of where to go and what to do (and in what order to do those things) in case of an emergency. Keep in mind that instructions will likely be different based upon the type of incident: fire, tornado, active shooter, etc.
Then, practice your plans consistently! Walking everyone through a drill once isn’t enough to reinforce familiarity and comfort with the plan.
7. Develop a Relationship with Local Law Enforcement
As you develop and update your emergency procedure plans, contact your local law enforcement. They’re likely more than willing to lend their expertise. Ask what would be helpful to them in case of an emergency so you can attempt to include that information in your emergency preparedness plan.
If law enforcement is already familiar with your building and the plan – or at least know you have one – when they arrive onsite, critical response time may be faster.
8. Get Students Involved
Provide students with a way to anonymously report things they see or hear. Many times, someone may notice something strange – an unauthorized visitor, doors propped open, seemingly bizarre activities, or signs of an emotional crisis – long before an incident occurs. But they don’t tell anyone because they’re worried about being wrong, don’t want to be labeled as a tattletale, or don’t know who to tell.
Whether it’s through an anonymous tip box, an online form to complete, or a designated staff person to talk to, encourage students to explain who and what they observed, when and where it occurred, and why it seemed out of the ordinary.
Have questions about ways to boost security in your school environment? Let us know! Our in-house experts can answer your questions, help you define potential problem areas, and identify security solutions that will keep learning at the forefront of your mission.
As a CEC employee since 1998, Cecil Anderson has served many roles and is currently the education sales manager. He helps connect K-12 schools with technology to improve security and communication.