5 Fundamental Questions For Assessing School Security

5 Fundamental Questions For Assessing School Security

Schools in the US are under increasing pressure to prevent and respond to threats against their students and facilities.  Florida, Tennessee and Pennsylvania have already passed legislation mandating state-wide security upgrades, and Minnesota, Wisconsin, Georgia, Maryland, and Rhode Island have similar bills in the works.  To be successful, these programs will have to plan, coordinate, analyze, budget, and act on an unprecedented scale.  If you are a school administrator or a security committee member charged with this daunting responsibility, ask yourself these 5 questions. Your answers will establish a solid foundation for security planning improvements in the near-, mid-, and long-term.

Why do you need to assess?

When it comes to school security, administrators face increasing pressure to make decisions with insufficient training and a paucity of data. Whether the pressure comes from the state legislature, the local community, or school staff, decisions must be made quickly and made well.  That means that any security implementation plan should be preceded by a comprehensive Security Risk Assessment.  

What will you be able to do with a successful assessment?

A successful assessment will provide a snapshot of the specific risks that need to be addressed, and highlight effective mitigation options. Once new measures have been implemented, a proactive security program includes reassessment to determine the next set of priorities. A completed Security Risk Assessment should:
  • Describe the current risks facing an individual school, campus, district, or state-wide system.
  • Identify new policy, human asset, physical, and technological measures, which could be implemented to reduce risk.
  • Estimate how those security measures would affect existing risk once implemented.
  • Allow decision makers to compare different approaches to mitigating risk, e.g. by logically grouping measures into implementation projects or by identifying specific threats to be mitigated.
  • Create a basis for ongoing reassessment: the next assessment should be easier to implement, and build greater understanding.
An effective SRA will give you the information you need to make good choices at any level, from targeting a specific threat at an individual school building, to identifying the initiatives appropriate for a district-wide rollout, to the equitable allocation funds across a state.

Who will gather the data?

Generally, there are three options: School staff best know the particular details of their schools, while Security Consultants are most practiced in consistent, systematic assessment and analysis. Dedicated Organizational or Government Experts strike a balance between big-picture understanding and local connections.

When deciding who will gather data, it’s important to consider:

  • How detailed can we be while retaining consistency across sites?
  • How much time do we have for assessment?
  • How much of our budget do we want to allocate to assessment, and how much to implementation?

Security consultants will likely gather a wealth of consistent, detailed data, but at a relatively high cost. School staff will be able to quickly return relevant information, but it may vary in consistency due to individual biases or objectives.

Start the process with answers to these questions and you will end up with more actionable data.

Who will interpret the data?

Once the data has been gathered, it needs be interpreted so that decisions can be made about which risks should be addressed and which measures should be undertaken. This interpretation may be:

  • A building-level process, where individual schools make requests based on independent needs.
  • A district-level process, where initiatives such as training or technology deployments can be standardized, and rolled out at scale.
  • A state-wide process that allocates resources to best address areas of greatest need.

Whether looking at raw data from individual sites or at proposals from schools based on their interpretations, a successful assessment will allow decision makers to evaluate different sites on an even playing field and make fair, effective choices.

Is this a one-off or the beginning of a living security plan?

The final question to answer is how the current assessment process will fit into ongoing security management. Is the task to deliver a specific set of actions this year, or an enduring plan which can be updated and revised after the first round of measures has been implemented?

Quill believes that any assessment is an opportunity to build an enduring, adaptive, and dynamic understanding of security risk. Security threats don’t wait until a convenient time. By building an adaptive model, Quill helps school systems continuously evaluate the efficacy and value of their existing security programs and planned implementation, as well as enable and promote resilient response to a crisis.