School Safety Environmental Assessment
In attempting to secure a school, Administrators must balance many different factors. This includes reducing student risk while maintaining a welcoming environment to students and staff. It requires following building codes and standards as well as promoting a learning atmosphere. School Superintendents have a difficult yet vital job to ensure the safety of everyone on their school campus. The question however remains, "How is this done?"
The Federal Commission on School Safety or the FCSS has recently conducted extensive research on school security and recommended all schools seek out and adhere to a three-point environmental security review to guard against school intruders.
WSA provides this three-point environmental security review through the
School Safety Environmental Assessment (SSEA)
The SSEA will allow School Administrators to finally receive a thorough report looking at how efficient and effective their school security is when compared to the three-point environmental review recommended by the FCSS. A trained Assessor will physically come to your school district, meet with every designated school contact and extensively examine all school campuses, all main and exterior buildings, as well as, all interior classrooms and hallways. A complete SSEA report identifying all areas of concern will be provided to the School Superintendent within 2 weeks of the review.
Most schools will incorporate a layering approach to school security beginning with protecting access to the school premises and working inwards to ensure security of classrooms and interior rooms.
School intruders look for gaps or a single point of failure in a school's security plan. Law enforcement needs time to act and the more time schools can give to them by layering school security measures to delay the attacker the better. This is very important for schools located in rural areas which requires additional time for police arrival.
Experts called in for the Federal Commission August 23 visit acknowledged stopping access to school campuses and outside buildings is a key line of defense. It begins with limiting the number of access points to the school and incorporates searches of suspicious items or persons.
Schools should utilize principles of Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design. By using fencing, bollards, planters, curbs or walls, school officials can designate a single entry point to the school. With one access entry, School Resource Officers and staff can effectively monitor every individual who enters the school.
Other buildings on campus should be equipped with an electronic access system utilizing access cards or video intercom door release systems.
Our trained WSA Assessor will come to your school and examine your school's entry points, fencing, and monitoring systems looking for any and all security issues. The SSEA report will include the 3 point school safety review and highlight all areas of concern.
Surveillance cameras are a great solution for buildings, hallways and enclosed stairwells that are not within view of teachers, administrators, or security personnel. Schools need to comply with all privacy laws, including the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) when sharing video feeds with law enforccement and others.
BUILDINGS ON CAMPUS
The exterior face of every schools building on a school campus is called the building envelope. This includes the walls, roof, windows and doors. The building envelope is a important layer in a school's defense against attackers. The construction materials used for doors and windows are significant and will determine the effectiveness of these features.
Schools who incorporate wood door frames and non-reinforced glass windows offer lower protection than doors made of steel and bullet-resistant glass windows.
Exterior windows require securing so that intruders cannot gain access to any building. Clearing away debris, foliage and exterior spaces surrounding every school building is necessary in providing overall security.
The WSA Assessor will tour all school buildings paying close attention to the "building envelope" to determine what is working properly and what needs improvement at your school. They will want to physically view all exterior walls, doors, windows and the roof of each school building on the campus. A SSEA report will include all areas of concern to ensure your school's safety and the security of every student and staff member.
First responders will need to gain access to your school in the most effective and efficient way. It is recommended through the Federal School Safety Commission to apply a common numbering system to walls, doors, roof hatches and stairwells. Fire marshals may want to require schools in the future to visibly number outside doors, provide directional markings and number school roofs to support identification from the air.
Developing or installing systems to monitor hidden spaces within the school (behind ceiling panels, walls, etc.) may be necessary to prevent their inappropriate use.
Portable buildings being used as classrooms require increased security. Many of these sites are not made from the same construction material as a typical school building. They may require addition security measures as a result to include video surveillance, assigned security personnel and retrofitting doors andlocks or ballistic protection on the windows.
Classroom doors, locks and windows are important when determining a school's level of protection. A properly manufactured classroom door can significantly delay or prevent an intruder from access to a classroom. Thereby, providing a safe area for students and staff to remain during a lockdown.
Like the building envelope, the construction material doors are made from will greatly affect their ability to provide ample protection. Doors not made out of bullet-proof material should be reinforced or replaced. Doors need to be designed to resist high powered ammunition but light weight enough for children to be able to open freely when entering and exiting the classroom.
The locks on the classroom door should permit teachers to lock it from the inside but have a method of unlocking by school officials or law enforcement. School administrators need to be aware and comply with fire codes, life safety codes and Americans with Disabilities Act requirements. It is also necessary for all school personnel to understand and use door locks appropriately or they will be useless against an attack. Propping doors open for convenience or other reasons will leave a school unprotected against an intruder.
The WSA Assessor will review every classroom within your school and determine what systems currently being used are productive and which systems need to be more secure. Recommendations will be provided through a thorough SSEA report provided only to the designated school official.
*The Best Practices for School Building Security: Federal Commission on School Safety 2018.
Assessors can provide quotes on one school, numerous schools or the entire district.