Conducting a Security Evaluation

Life and security in America have changed forever. However, I caution you not to implement "heightened security" at your school. Simply put, you either have security, or you don't. As the security consultant to several independent schools, I have been able to assess and recommend a variety of proven, unobtrusive, and cost-effective security measures. Guards and cameras may not be the answer. "Security is Everybody's Business."  

Security evaluations are based on the "forseeability" of crime and should always be conducted by an independent security professional for two important reasons.  First, a consultant associated with a commercial vendor for security products or services will ultimately recommend those items to you via a covert sales pitch. Second, as human beings, we do not enjoy being evaluated by an outsider, but someone who is independent and lacking an agenda, is the best person to examine your institution with an unbiased opinion.

The infrastructure of your school's "adequacy of protection" is based on your written policies and procedures. These issues are critical for liability reduction and litigation avoidance. Should you consider performing a cursory self-evaluation, you should address the following items:

Emergency Plan

This is the most important document you own. It should be dynamic, with monthly audits to confirm that names and phone numbers are current. Communication networks are most critical during emergency response and should be given priority. Parents should clearly understand their roles, as my experience has been that they offer the greatest challenge in times of an emergency.

Risk Analysis

Determine your vulnerabilities and threats. Every school is different. I shudder when I see district security plans attempting to treat every school the same. You should consider the following issues:

  • Teacher safety
  • Outsiders on campus
  • Fights on campus
  • Theft
  • Vandalism
  • Weapons
  • Drugs/alcohol
  • Parking lot safety
  • Bomb threats

Building Security

The best way to deter a crime is to make its commission difficult. The following structural measures are critical elements of the Security Evaluation:

  • Barriers and fences
  • Doors and locking mechanisms
  • Windows
  • Lighting

Security Devices and Services

This is where most schools make their mistakes. Intrusion systems and security guards, although effective, are costly and often give a false sense of security. Consider these tips:

  • Post signage wherever possible, advertising your crime prevention readiness.
  • Test and regularly service all security systems, cameras, and recording devices.
  • Demand the results of screening, background checks, certification, and training of all security guards.
  • Deploy radios to all of your key personnel and consider the installation of panic duress buttons for critical reception areas.

Outside Agencies

One of the most important elements of a security evaluation is the school's relationship with the responsible police and fire agencies. They are willing to assist you with, and should be a part of your emergency and security planning.

Obviously, this was a glimpse at the entire security evaluation process. However, if you choose to undertake a risk analysis, you will discover it is an intelligent, proactive step to ensuring the safety and security of your institution.

Erroll G. Southers is President and CEO of Risk Management Consultants International. He is a nationally recognized authority on work and school place violence, hate crimes, and extremist activity. He is a former FBI agent, police detective, and Assistant Vice President for Visitor Services at the Los Angles County Museum of Art. Southers has conducted many security evaluations for NAIS member schools.

For more information on security at schools, also visit the following websites:

Source: www.nais.org.  Author: Erroll G. Southers, President and CEO,Risk Management Consultants International.  © 2002.  Reprinted with permission.Modified by NAIS, April 2002.