Sunday, December 10, 2006

The Security Professional's Role in School Security

While tragically unfortunate, it is nonetheless a reality of today that school administrators must regularly ask themselves 2 important questions: “Are my schools safe and secure?” and “Will my schools’ security stand up to the legal scrutiny and challenges that will undoubtedly arise from a tragic incident?” In many cases, the honest answer to these questions is….“I don’t know.”

In the aftermath of Columbine and other such incidents across the country, security is an issue that must be of concern to anyone who is responsible for the safety and well-being of others. And now, with these types of incidents occurring with alarming frequency, the questions necessarily arise:

· Are there appropriate physical security safeguards in place?
· Is there a security plan?
· Does the security plan have commensurate policies, procedures, and training?
· Are tabletop and practical drills conducted to assure that the security plan is workable?
· Are there review procedures to assure that the security plan remains current?
· Has the security plan been reviewed to assure its adequacy and sufficiency – is it legally defensible (the standard that courts will use if your security plan is challenged)?

Many organizations, even those with proprietary capabilities in areas such as human resources, finance, or risk management realize the value of an outside, independent, objective audit process. Such a review assures that all issues of potential concern have been identified and addressed; and provides a fresh perspective to processes routinely managed by persons who may be too close to the situation to see it clearly and completely. And while many school districts rightly utilize their local law enforcement agencies to provide basic protective efforts and believe that such involvement is sufficient for their security planning needs, that is not necessarily the case. Consider that law enforcement agencies rarely have the knowledge or experience to conduct thorough assessments of a school’s total security program, because law enforcement officials focus primarily on problem response and resolution. Security professionals focus primarily on development of prevention and mitigation strategies. While both components (prevention/mitigation and response/resolution) are essential for a thorough school security plan, it is obviously much more beneficial to prevent problems whenever possible. So inclusion of the expertise of security professionals is something that should be considered.

A security assessment of a school and its campus is conducted to identify factors which create potential risk to students, staff, visitors, and facilities; to analyze and prioritize those potential risks; to analyze current security countermeasures in relation to the identified risks; and to offer recommendations as appropriate to prevent and/or mitigate as many potential risks as possible. The assessment process is usually accomplished via 3 basic methods:

· interviews with key administrative personnel and representative constituent focus groups, to identify security wants and needs; and to determine the current perceived state of security within the facilities
· review of any current policies, procedures and practices relating to security, to determine their adequacy and sufficiency
· a physical inspection and survey of facilities, to determine the current state of security; this inspection will include any current and/or proposed security systems, to determine their adequacy and sufficiency

So if your school administrators have been thinking about security needs, but didn’t know where to find professional, cost-effective direction and advice, look no further – a competent security professional may be your answer.