Security has become an incredibly important topic among K-12 administrators, faculty, staff and parents. It is difficult to look at the incidents of violence in places like Newtown, Connecticut and Nevada and not feel concern. Surely, if something could happen in these places, it could happen in your school or your district. So, what should you do? As a technology manager, investing in your schools’ security infrastructure and creating mass notification and emergency communication (MNEC) policies and procedures is a good place to start, but even before that you need to choose partners who will share their expertise and work with your community to create a safe environment that’s right for you. Security is not a one-size-fits-all solution so it’s important you find the right organizations to partner with.
Who are some of these partners? One might be a security consultant who will assess your district or school’s current security efforts and make recommendations for improvement. Another partner might be an integration firm that can both advise you on technology purchases and install new equipment. Still another might be a security firm. The choice is yours depending on the knowledge and expertise you may already have on hand. Once you make a decision, it’s time to do some research.
Finding a Consultant
“There’s no straight shot. They have to do some shopping and some asking around,” says David Connors,” an independent safety consultant for K-12 public, private and charter schools. Connors has served in both law enforcement and as the director of Security and Safety for two New York State school districts. He recommends end users find someone to partner with via recommendation or word of mouth. Of course, Google is always an option, but if you do decide to go the Internet search route make sure to speak with clients who have used the consultant in the past. Otherwise, you don’t whom you might be dealing with. Once schools find a consultant that looks promising, it’s time to ask some questions.
“I would recommend they talk to someone who has dealt with this individual to find out what their product looked like and what their satisfaction was before, during and after the project, whatever that project happened to be,” says Connors.
A professional security consultant should be able to give you references from other schools or districts similar to your own. That’s important. The needs of an urban school district and a suburban school district are different. Make sure whomever you select for your project has experience working with someone like you.
Putting Together a Plan
The good news is you don’t have to have a specific plan ready to go once you bring in your consultant. If you have an idea of what you would like to do that’s great. If not, that’s fine too. Connors recommends schools and districts go through a security and safety audit to provide a thorough assessment of security measures already in place. This includes both technology and policies. An audit consists of an inspection of the site, including the interior and grounds.
“I’m looking at access control and communications, classroom security, and lockdown capability,” says Connors. He also reviews any existing safety plans or procedures.
Your consultant will then provide you with recommendations for improvement and may even provide tabletop exercises for school staff and administrators so they can become familiar with good safety practices. Connors recommends schools undergo an audit and have their safety plans reviewed at the same time since the two entities depend on one another. Otherwise, it is difficult to know whether or not your consultant gave you a viable product.