Missing nuts-and-bolts fundamentals in school security and emergency planning come back to haunt us when a crisis or high-profile security incident occurs. We can prevent many situations with the proper training and time allocated to doing the leg work critical to meaningful school safety and crisis planning.
Want to stump a school crisis team? You don’t need to ask complex questions. Instead:
- Ask them how they dial 9-1-1 from their school phones. Must 9 be dialed first and then 9-1-1, or can they dial 9-1-1 direct without dialing 9 to get an outside line?
- Do all faculty and staff members know the street address of their school if they are asked by a 9-1-1 dispatcher?
- If your school’s walking evacuation site is a community church, do you have keys to get in the building if nobody is at the church when you arrive?
- How long will it take to mobilize your district’s school bus drivers in the middle of the school day if needed in an emergency? What if you need to evacuate multiple buildings at the same time? Have you drilled this to get a realistic feel for the amount of time between the school’s call and the arrival of buses?
- Have students been trained not to open doors for individuals on the outside trying to get in the school?
These and other questions often draw blank stares and a bit of anxiety when we ask school crisis team members.
School support staff are also often an overlooked school crisis planning resource. School secretaries, custodians, bus drivers, and food services workers are critical players in our day-to-day school operations, as well as in a crisis. Yet we consistently find them under-trained and under-represented on school safety and crisis teams.
As the Columbine 10th anniversary nears, reflections on the state of school security and school crisis planning grow. In recent years, we have heard questionable proposals such as arming teachers, equipping kids with bulletproof backpacks, and training students to throw books at armed intruders. We have also had security product vendors pushing their products as “the” solution to school violence.
Yet where we have really lost focus is on our people. We need to return to the basic fundamentals of school safety so those on the front lines in our schools know what to do in crisis situations.
How would your school’s staff respond to the above questions? Are they really prepared?