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Schools’ First Step in Security Planning: Conduct a Building Assessment

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Jill Lemond Headshot
Jill Lemond
Head of Education
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Publish date

Mar 23, 2023

This is the first in a series of blog posts for K-12 administrators, educators and safety experts as they assess, create and revise safety plans for their schools and districts.  

According to K-12 Dive, the 2022 calendar year broke the record for the most school shootings in over four decades and marked one of the most violent years for youth ages 12-17. As of December 20, there were 300 shooting incidents on school grounds. In 2023, there have already been 18 school shootings with injuries or deaths. For school officials, those numbers reinforce a need to prioritize safety planning, highlighting the reality that school-based violence can happen anywhere, in any school community. Nothing is 100%.  

Before any safety plan can be designed or implemented, it is critical that everyone understands, agrees and communicates that, when it comes to physical security, nothing is 100% effective. Physical security requires a layered approach: people, process and technology. If there is a breakdown in one of those layers, the risks of threats can increase. Therefore, it’s important to ensure the community understands that any action you take towards safety is done to mitigate threats, not eliminate them.   

Assess first, plan second  

Just like when planning in other areas of life, it’s important to assess your buildings first before planning or making any decisions. For example, if your school/campus uses numerous entrances/exits for students, teachers, administrators and visitors, purchasing and installing a weapons screening system for one door might not reduce vulnerabilities. Before any technology is purchased or personnel is deployed, you need to take stock of your current security posture including the district structures, practices, and policies 

There are numerous resources, such as school security consultants, to whom you can outsource the assessment (and planning) process. But there are also free tools that can help you get started. For example, the National Institute of Justice has created a School Safety Assessment with an extensive checklist that includes external considerations, interior safety, access and visitor control information, school safety equipment, and school safety planning information.  

Here are some specific considerations when conducting that assessment (per the National Institute of Justice):  

  • Are video cameras available to monitor activities outside the school building? 
  • Are signs clearly posted instructing visitors to sign in at the office? 
  • Are the entry doors locked from the outside when not in use? 
  • Does a designated person perform security checks at the end of the school day and/or after evening activities? 
  • Does a designated person perform a check to ensure all exterior entrances and windows are locked, all night lights have been turned on and the alarm system is functioning? 
  • Are multiple entrances to the school building controlled and supervised from the inside for property security? 

Taking the time to complete a comprehensive safety assessment is the critical first step to any school safety plan. With this information in hand, you can begin to make informed decisions about the resources and tools needed to address the safety and security of your students, teachers and staff within your unique environment.  

In our next post, we will look at the key role resources and partners play in school safety planning.  

Jill Lemond Headshot
Jill Lemond
Head of Education

Jill Lemond is Evolv Technology’s Head of Education. She has more than 15 years of experience in education, serving the past twelve years at Oxford Community Schools in Oxford, Michigan. Previous positions include ESL and International Programs Coordinator, Director of International Operations, and Assistant Superintendent of Safety & School Operations. Jill has extensive school safety training and certifications and holds a Bachelor of Arts in English/Language Arts Teacher Education and TESOL from Michigan State University, as well as an MBA from Capella University.

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