School Security: Best Practices

How to mitigate shootings and other violent events on school grounds

• Train staff to know and follow standardized procedures in an emergency and incorporate security into employee training programs.

• Provide security information and training to all students.

• Conduct regular exercises for active shooters. For years children have been exposed to fire, earthquake, and even bomb drills. The most effective way to train your staff to respond to an active shooter situation is to conduct mock active shooter training.

• Include local law enforcement and first responders during your training exercises and encourage law enforcement and emergency responders to train for an active shooter scenario at your location.


Hire Right

Large concentrations of students gathering inside and around school buildings on a regular schedule make schools vulnerable to child predators, as well as shooters and terrorists. So it is critical for schools today to conduct diligent and thorough background checks and fingerprinting of all school personnel.

Vendors and service providers that have access to school grounds, such as janitors, landscapers and other maintenance workers, should have the same stringent background checks and fingerprinting as every teacher and administrator.

Cross-train every person who is employed on the campus — including vendors and contractors — to develop safety and security awareness protocols that provide support to and enhance existing security programs.

Look for vendors with “safe campus” programs. These vendors consult with administration and other school vendors to create a culture of safety awareness that includes every person on campus, and becomes part of the security/safety solution by increasing the number of people continually surveying the campus for potential suspicious activities and expanding the eyes and ears of campus security staff.


Improve School Facilities

Because schools are relatively open access, it can be difficult to control access to schools without new technology and improved facilities maintenance. While these protective measures can be expensive, President Obama has earmarked $150 million for Comprehensive School Safety grants that will provide schools with funding for buying safety equipment, conducting threat assessments, and training crisis-intervention teams.

Best practices for maintaining access control to better protect students while on school grounds include:

  • Define the facility perimeter and areas within the facility that require access control. Maintain building access points to the minimum needed.
  • Photo IDs for all employees and students.
  • Provide visitors with school-issued identification badges when on school grounds and require visitor check-in with the front office upon arrival and departure.
  • Control vehicle access to school parking lots.
  • Design a video monitoring, surveillance, and inspection program.
  • Continuously monitor people entering and leaving the facility and establish protocols identifying suspicious behavior.
  • Deploy personnel assigned to security duty to regularly inspect sensitive or critical areas.
  • Vary security rounds and schedules to avoid predictability.
  • Improve lighting across the campus and maintain the grounds.
  • Make sure the school has enough utility service capacity to meet normal and emergency needs and provide adequate physical security.
  • Make sure employees are familiar with how to shut off utility services, etc.


Increase Communication

Good communication is critical in emergency situations to increase response times and reduce confusion, panic, misinformation, and possible injuries. All schools should have a communication plan in place. Schools should establish a liaison and regular communication with local law enforcement and community leaders. They should install systems that provide communication with all people at the school including employees, students, visitors, and emergency response teams; and establish protocol and systems — such as email and text messaging — that provide alerts and to communicate with parents in emergency situations.

Good communication strategies also include procedures for communicating with the public and the media regarding security issues, breaches and threats.