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Practical School Security and Emergency Planning

Sample E-Newsletters

Thank you for considering our free e-newsletters.  Below are two sample e-newsletters which will give you a "feel" for the content and format of newsletters to help in your decision to sign-up.

For questions or feedback on the e-newsletter, contact Ken Trump, President of National School Safety and Security Services.

 


Practical School Security and Emergency Planning E-Newsletter Nov 6, 2006
 

NATIONAL SCHOOL SAFETY AND SECURITY SERVICES

 

Practical School Security and

 Emergency Planning E-Newsletter

 
Trends and Best Practices For Protecting K-12 Schools
In This Issue
Testing Your School District's Security
Text Messaging & Cell Phones Accelerate Rumors
Free School Security Assessments & Templates
Quick Links
 
Join our list
Join Our Mailing List
March 24, 2008
Dear Kenneth,

 
Please share your success stories on positive strategies you have used to improve school security and emergency preparedness.  Let others know practical tips that have worked in your schools.  Email details to Ken Trump for sharing in future newsletters.
 
Testing Your School District's Security  
 Reader shares tips for improving security 
 
Pat Lamb, Director of Security & Operations for Irving Independent School District in Texas, shares with our readers some recent security initiatives in his district.
 
"We want to positively engage any and all visitors to our schools (within or without the walls of the building), and we want to know who is milling about our students," Pat stressed.
 
One of the interesting components is what Pat describes as the "See what we can see" audits.  The district hired outside security consultants to walk through the schools to see if they could bypass security at the front desk.  If they get past, they walk throughout the school to see if teachers, SROs, district security, students, custodial staff, kitchen staff, or others will engage them or allow them to mill about without being challenged.
 
This proactive initiative highlights what Ken Trump and his colleagues have been strongly advising school leaders:  Test your own security and emergency preparedness before someone else tests it for you. It is much better for your district to have your plans, programs, practices, and people evaluated and tested than for persons with ill intentions, the media, and/or a lawsuit to test them for you.
 
Irving ISD's board also recently approved a plan to install over 1,200 digital cameras in all schools, implement a visitor management system that digitally registers visitors and identifies registered sexual offenders, and place 30 security officers in the district's secondary schools to assist with student supervision and to engage visitors.  The district also trains campus staff in emergency response situations, the latest training being focused on conducting lockdown drills at the most inconvenient times.
 
Thanks to Pat for his leadership and for his willingness to share with his peers!
Text Messages & Cell Phones Accelerate Rumors  
 Threats and rumors escalate quickly & disrupt
 
Our last newsletter reminded readers that the April Columbine anniversary tends to bring about threats, plots, and rumors of violence in the weeks before the actual anniversary date.
 
Over the past week, we have tracked multiple school incidents across the nation where rumors have disrupted schools and have even resulted in decreased attendance due to fears of rumored violence. The issues of text messaging in particular, and cell phones in general, were credited with sometimes creating more anxiety and panic than any actual threats or incidents that may have triggered the rumors.
 
"We are now dealing with 'Generation Text' instead of 'Generation X'," said Ken Trump.  "The rumors typically become greater than the issue, problem, or incident itself.  Attendance can go down overnight and rumors can fly in minutes," he noted.
 
Ken's advice to school and safety officials includes:
 
1) Anticipate you will have an issue that catches fire like this at some time.  Identify ahead of time what mechanisms you will use to counter it. 
 
2) Have redundancy in communications:  Web site, direct communications to students and staff, mass parent notifications, letters to go home, etc.
 
3) Discuss some potential scenarios with your district and building administrators and crisis teams to evaluate what the threshold will be for going full speed on your response communications.  If you go full speed on every single rumor, you might need two full-time employees just to counter rumors in one average secondary school.  Try to get a feel for at what point a situation might rise to the level of being so disruptive or distractive that it warrants a full-fledged communications counter assault by school and police officials.
 
4) School and police officials should have unified communications so as to send consistent messages.  We train in our emergency preparedness programs for the use of joint information centers (JICs) in a major critical incident response. But even on lower scale incidents, it is important for school leaders to be sending a message consistent with that of public safety officials to their school-communities.
 
5) Have a formal crisis communications plan and professionally train your administrators and crisis team members on communicating effectively with media and parents.  Professional outside communications consultants, district communications staff (for those with such in-house resources), and related specialists can help develop and audit communications plans, and train staff.
 
"The key is to be prepared to fight fire with fire. Today's high-tech world and rapid communications must be countered by school officials who have a solid communications plan for managing rapidly escalating rumors around school safety issues," Trump said.
 
Free School Security Assessments & Templates  
 Educators must carefully evaluate free offers
 
Free school security assessments by product vendors.  Free grant writers to help districts apply for safety grants. Free templates for doing your own school safety audits.
 
While the word "free" catches the eyes of some school boards and administrators very quickly in today's world of tight school budgets, the golden rule of "free offers" still applies today:
 
        Buyer Beware:
Free offers are probably too good to be true.  Rarely do you truly get something for nothing.
Smart boards and superintendents recognize that accepting offers of "free" security assessments from security product vendors may very likely leave them stuck with a final report of recommendations to purchase thousands, or hundreds of thousands, of dollars worth of equipment the vendor "coincidentally" sells.
 
Likewise with "free" grant writers provided to districts to write safety grant proposals:  The grant writing may be free, but don't be surprised if the grant writer wants to write the bulk of the grant to fund products or services they sell.  Recent U.S. Department of Education emergency planning grant guidelines actually note that third parties engaged in writing the grants would not be eligible for receiving funds from such grants due to conflict of interest, and we believe federal grant officials are monitoring more closely for grants written by "free grant writers" provided to districts seeking school safety grants.
 
School officials also remain quick to jump at checklists and templates for doing school security assessments and emergency planning. Chuck Hibbert, a national school safety consultant and retired school safety administrator, sums it up:  "A template is only as good as the person using it.  If the user has limited or no background, qualifications, and expertise in school security or school emergency planning, how effective can their end product be using a check-off or fill-in-the-blank template?"
 
Or, as Ken Trump asks:  "Would you let your plumber do your heart by-pass surgery simply because he was using a template put together by an association, government agency, or other outside party?"
 
Doing school safety "on the cheap" may save a district some dollars on front-end costs but can lead to greater costs in potential legal liability and reputation damage down the road.
 
See our web page on school safety templates

National School Safety and Security Services is a Cleveland-based national consulting firm specializing in K-12 school security and emergency preparedness training, security assessments, emergency planning evaluations, and related consultation. Visit our web site www.schoolsecurity.org for details.

Copyright © 2008. All rights reserved. Information in this newsletter is not provided as legal advice and/or as professional advice on specific situations. We do not assume, and hereby specifically disclaim, any liability to any person or entity with respect to any loss or damage alleged to have been caused by any error or omission contained herein or on linked sites.


Kenneth S. Trump, President

National School Safety and Security Services


Phone: 216-251-3067

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National School Safety and Security Services | PO Box 110123 | Cleveland | OH | 44111

 

NATIONAL SCHOOL SAFETY AND SECURITY SERVICES

 

Practical School Security and

 Emergency Planning E-Newsletter

 
Trends and Best Practices For Protecting K-12 Schools
In This Issue
Tabletop Exercise Helps District Stay Proactive
Columbine Anniversary Brings Threats, Plots, & Rumors
School Shooting Survivors Sue Safety Firm
Send Your Board and Superintendent to Safety School
Quick Links
 
Join our list
Join Our Mailing List
March 17, 2008
Dear Kenneth,

 
Please share your success stories on positive strategies you have used to improve school security and emergency preparedness.  Let others know practical tips that have worked in your schools.  Email details to Ken Trump for sharing in future newsletters.
 
Tabletop Exercise Helps District Stay Proactive   
 Newsletter reader shares tips from exercise
 
Tami Kroc, director of pupil services for Gurnee (IL) District 56, shares with us that her district recently partnered with local police and fire officials to run a tabletop exercise for the district's administrative team.
 
The exercise was based on a scenario where the danger was outside of the school in the form of a train derailment causing the rupture of a tanker containing chlorine gas.  The district actually has a very active train track running behind two of their four schools.
 
Exercise "lessons learned" included:
 
  • During the exercise, cell phone service declined due to heavy traffic and eventually the service ended.  This caused administrators to brainstorm ways of staying in touch such as text messaging, email, and possibly purchasing new two-way communications equipment.
  • Another major issue was whether or not evacuate students. How quickly students could actually be removed from schools based on the time of day and availability of buses was another major issue discussed.
  • One other eye-opener for the school team was that first responders may not be on-site at schools for 20 minutes or more due to their need to attend to the immediate area and everyone around. Caring for potentially ill students and staff and having all staff trained on National Incident Management System (NIMS) were related discussion items.


"The administrators felt the exercise was a great benefit to them because they needed to think through each step of the disaster and make quick decisions based on what information they were given.  It is very useful to think of these issues before an actual disaster occurs," said Tami Kroc.

A crime prevention technician with the local police department credited the district in a local newspaper story for doing a good job during the exercise.
 
Tabletop exercises help school officials get written plans off shelves and into practice without being as time and labor intensive as full scale drills. Educators need to test and exercise their security and crisis plans before they become tested by an actual emergency, a lawsuit, and/or the media. Tabletops help school leaders get a feel for how their administrators and crisis teams would think, and whether their written plans might actually work, in a real emergency.
 
We commend District 56 Superintendent John Hutton, a veteran school administrator who has overseen a number of safety initiatives and a major crisis  recovery during his education career, and Tami Kroc for their proactive leadership with this tabletop.  Many thanks for sharing your lessons with your peers!
 
See tabletop web page for other tabletop lessons 
Columbine Anniversary Brings Threats & Rumors  
 Schools should review threat protocols with staff
 
Spring season in schools in general, and the April anniversary of the Columbine shooting specifically, tend to be surrounded by more school violence threats, plots and rumors than at other times of the school year.
 
Earlier this month, police and school officials in Trenton, NJ, revealed that a "military-style assault" plot against a high school had been prevented as arrests were made in the case.  This past Friday, March 14th, police in DeLand, FL, arrested three seventh-grade middle school students for plotting to kill as many students as possible and then kill themselves with a gun. 
 
School leaders should consider the following steps NOW:
  • Meet with administrators, crisis team members, school police and security staff, and threat assessment teams to review school threat assessment protocols.
  • Touch base with law enforcement liaisons to discuss threats and other security issues that may arise during the remainder of the school year.
  • Update the entire school staff on school threat protocols, being visible in the halls and common areas, interacting regularly with students, reviewing school crisis plans, and reporting security concerns.

The season for heightened awareness and preparedness is among us.

School Shooting Survivors Sue Safety Firm  
 Lawsuit claims firm lacked qualifications for job
 
Survivors of the 2005 school shooting at the Red Lake, Minnesota, Native American reservation filed suit against an environmental and engineering consulting firm that had been hired to create crisis plans for the school.  The consulting firm has denied the charges.
 
The lawsuit claims that the consulting firm lacked the qualifications to create the plans for the school district.  It also claims that the firm failed to follow-through on developing and implementing the plans.
 
This lawsuits follows a number of lawsuits against the school district itself which have been resolved.
 
While the merits of the lawsuit against the firm that provided school safety consulting services will ultimately be determined by the court, the lawsuit itself raises a very timely issue in the school safety field:

The selection of school safety consultants by school districts and the potential for liability, both legal and from a public image/reputation perspective, for school districts selecting less qualified consultants.

 
The plaintiffs believe had the company been better qualified and provided certain follow-through on their contracted services, the school would have been better prepared to respond to the shooting.  In essence, the qualifications of the firm and their work may be on trial.
 
Administrators and boards need to be better educated consumers when selecting school safety consultants. Due to poor budgetary planning and a lack of knowledge about the types of school safety consultants, educators are increasingly making decisions "on the cheap" by selecting less qualified and questionably competent consultants. 
 
The low bid, low cost, and low qualifications approach to hiring school safety consultants puts school districts squarely in a position to become the target for significant financial liability should an incident arise that lawyers can prove could have been prevented or better managed.  Selecting poor quality consultants puts districts at higher-risk of getting bad advice, which means the districts may end up poorly prepared for preventing and managing an incident. 
 
Keep in mind that before an attorney goes after a consultant, they will first go after the school district.
 
Many school leaders do not understand the different types of school safety consultants and the pros and cons of each.  These types include:
  1. "Big-box" consulting firms that dabble in school safety consulting;
  2. Security generalists with excellent credentials in corporate or military security, or backgrounds in law enforcement, but minimal-to-no experience working with K-12 schools or K-12 school security; 
  3. Smaller, specialized school security consulting firms;
  4. Part-timers and retirees, such as former educators and retired police officers, consulting for extra cash; and
  5. Overnight experts and opportunists.

The most important factor for school leaders in selecting school safety consultants is to make sure their consultants have K-12 school safety experience with extensive knowledge of school climate, culture, and school-community relations and school political considerations.

 
Send Your Board & Super to Safety School  
 March 28th Safety Workshop at NSBA Conference
 
Next Friday, March 28th, Ken Trump will be leading a full-day, pre-conference workshop on school security and emergency preparedness best practices, current trends, and new resources at the 2008 National School Boards Association annual convention in Orlando.  He will also present a shorter workshop the next day on managing parent and media communications on school security and crisis issues.
 
Pass this information along NOW to your school board members and superintendents who may be attending the NSBA convention next week and encourage them to sign-up for the school safety and emergency preparedness pre-conference workshop. 
 
Contact Ken Trump for details.
 

National School Safety and Security Services is a Cleveland-based national consulting firm specializing in K-12 school security and emergency preparedness training, security assessments, emergency planning evaluations, and related consultation. Visit our web site www.schoolsecurity.org for details.

Copyright © 2008. All rights reserved. Information in this newsletter is not provided as legal advice and/or as professional advice on specific situations. We do not assume, and hereby specifically disclaim, any liability to any person or entity with respect to any loss or damage alleged to have been caused by any error or omission contained herein or on linked sites.


Kenneth S. Trump, President

National School Safety and Security Services


Phone: 216-251-3067


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