Improving security is becoming a top priority for schools across the country. Parents, teachers, communities, and more are all demanding updates to the safety protocols which have been in place for decades. Simply put, schools today must have a solid plan in place to respond to the scariest of situations. School shootings, bomb threats, and other crises are happening more often now than ever before. As a result, schools are forced to become safer and more secure every day.
However, not every school can afford the thousands of dollars required to bring in a team of consultants to overhaul an outdated response plan. If your school is updating its security practices, here are some amazing tips to keep in mind:
1. Train your faculty. Often.
It might sound obvious, but many schools don’t retrain faculty in safety procedures nearly as often as they should. But that makes sense – the likelihood of an active shooter in a school is (thankfully) quite low, so it would be easy to figure that training teachers once every few years is good enough.
Here’s why that’s wrong: put yourself, for just a second, in the shoes of a teacher during an emergency. In addition to following school protocol, you’re trying to keep a room full of children quiet and hidden in a VERY scary time. Overwhelming doesn’t even begin to describe such a situation. But this is exactly why you should be training your teachers more often – you want your teachers following your protocol as if it were second nature. There will be way too much happening to expect a teacher to read an instruction manual, so they likely just won’t do it.
Train your teachers often. Similar to many state recommendations, we suggest that teachers go through a safety protocol refresher at least once a year.
2. Drills are critically important.
Last year, only about ⅔ of schools did lockdown drills at all. Let that sink in for a moment.
If getting teachers to follow protocol is a challenge, imagine getting a classroom full of children to all be ready and able to act accordingly during a crisis. Even worse, many “shelter-in-place” events can last for 4 hours (or more)! Just like with faculty, you want your students to know exactly where to go and what to do during any emergency.
Plus, drills enable you and your school to notice problems with your protocols before there’s even an emergency. Ruvna’s accountability app, for example, analyzes many aspects of drill performance to help identify bottlenecks in your processes. We often see schools that are able to use this data to reduce their drill time by 50% or greater. This data is really, really, important.
3. Build communication strategies into your protocol
Teachers spend almost the entire school day with their students. If there’s a student missing, injured, or in need of any sort of attention, teachers likely are among the first to know about it. You should make it as straightforward as possible for a teacher to communicate with the school during a crisis. The faster teachers can communicate this information the faster students can get the help they need.
If you aren’t sure where communication bottlenecks might be hiding in your security protocols, pay special attention during your next drill to the different logical “steps” that occur, and how long it takes to move between these steps. For example, if you’re able to evacuate your building in 3-4 minutes, but it takes 25+ minutes to account for the student body, that’s a big red flag that there’s a communication problem in between evacuation and accounting for students.
Many schools have so many steps and hurdles through which information must travel before reaching the right eyes. Schools that ease this communication flow have a huge advantage when it comes to safety and security. If you’re looking to use technology in your emergency protocols, make sure the app/software/platform makes it easier, not harder, for everyone to share information.