School and college administrators, public safety officials, and resource officers share responsibility – and heightened scrutiny - for ensuring a safe and secure learning and work environment in American schools, community colleges and universities. The risks they face are challenging and complex, especially in the contentious political environment surrounding the debate about gun-based violence. Faculty, staff, parents, and students all want to be reassured that their schools and institutions have taken steps to reduce the likelihood of tragedies like those suffered in the all too familiar shooting tragedies that seem to have taken place all over the country.
A proactive emergency management program—planned cooperatively with first responders in the community—can help minimize the incidence of targeted violence, bodily injury, property damage, and liability. Sound programs are instrumental in helping schools and colleges stabilize, manage, and recover from incidents so they can get back to the fundamental business of education.
With the recent elimination of direct U.S. Department of Education grants, school and higher education safety and emergency management programs are increasingly supported, mandated and funded by state government agencies as part of gubernatorial-level efforts to protect education facilities, staff and students.
At the K-12 level, a model program in Nevada – Project S.P.A.R.T.A.N. (Schools Prepared and Ready Together Across Nevada) – is an example of a very proactive statewide coordination of, and support for a comprehensive approach to school safety. All Nevada school districts utilize a state approved standard online safety and emergency management platform, which was developed collaboratively with Risk Solutions International.
The K-12 Emergency Preparedness practice at Risk Solutions International provides schools with advisory and consulting services and technology solutions to their comprehensive emergency response and crisis management challenges.
Our professionals have worked with hundreds of public and charter school districts and pre-school systems nationwide. They have conducted safety, security and vulnerability assessments, developed more than 65 district-scale “living” emergency management plans, equipped tens of thousands of classrooms with emergency procedures guides, and trained school and community security and safety officials in hundreds of drills, simulations, tabletop, functional and full scale exercises.
They teach and conduct training classes in many areas of relevant subject matter expertise – threat assessment and management of targeted violence, crisis communication and media management, food safety and defense, NIMS and ICS, school security and the law, post-incident psychological recovery, pandemic and infectious disease planning and management, and more.
These professionals bring over 175 years of combined experience in K-12, governmental, and commercial emergency management; community policing; law enforcement; and anti-terrorism. They are experts in critical infrastructure protection, NIMS Compliance, large scale exercise design, chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, explosive (CBRNE), weapons of mass destruction (WMD) preparedness and custom training programs designed to meet or exceed FEMA/DHS standards. They maintain the highest professional certifications and credentials and have contributed to current national standards.
Our references, qualifications, and experience are on display in districts across entire states, education cooperatives and services centers, numerous large urban and suburban districts, smaller suburban and rural districts, huge pre-school systems, and state-wide charter school organizations.
We worked with FEMA and the Emergency Management Institute (EMI) on a three day pilot training program -
FEMA Multi-Hazard Emergency Planning for Schools - for all Nevada school districts. This training material is being made available by the EMI for all school districts nationwide, as a result.
Services and Solutions
Risk Solutions International provides K-12 school districts with a
complete portfolio of services. Our plans, materials, training, and
deliverables address the four phases of emergency management:
prevention/mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery.
Our solutions align with NIMS, ICS, and are NFPA 1600 compliant.
They meet all federal, state, and local regulations—and are widely
considered industry leading practices. They address all natural and
man-made hazards, including destructive weather, gang violence,
weapons and shooters on campus, chemical spills, pandemic outbreaks
and biological releases, WMD, CBRNE, power outages, floods, and
terrorism. Our services include:
Capabilities & Needs Assessments
Security & Vulnerability Assessments
Comprehensive “Living” Emergency Management Response Plan Websites
Visual Asset Manager™ - a viewer of floor plans, aerial photos of
school facilities, photos of fire suppression, mechanical and
utility systems so first responders gain situational awareness,
floor plans, 360º shots, and IP-based CCTV feeds
Crisis Communications and Media Management Policies and Training
Behavioral Intervention Team Policies
Evacuation, Lockdown, Sheltering Procedures
Classroom, Bus Driver and Parent Emergency Procedures Guides
Orientations, Drills, and Tabletop/Functional/Full-Scale Exercises
Risk Solutions International produces state-scale safe schools
conferences sponsored and funded by Governors’ Offices, State
Homeland Security Departments, Emergency Management Agencies, and
Departments of Education – as a way to amplify state programs and
help them become more readily adopted.
Caution on Shooting Response
In the understandable rush to make our schools and colleges less
vulnerable to acts of targeted violence, actions that may prove less
effective than others are being promoted nationwide. Making schools
into “fortresses” with metal detectors or armed guards, making routine
access onerous, or asking faculty to assume incident management roles
to which they may be poorly suited may not be effective and viable
strategies in the long run.
While shooting deaths are always catastrophic, the chance that they will
occur at any one location remains extremely small in the U.S. – as a
percentage of the number of our schools and school districts.
Over-attention to expensively mitigating
active shooter scenarios can
result in under-consideration of many other types of risks, hazards
and threats that schools face – and that are far more likely to occur.
RSI believes that developing an all-hazards emergency management program
and an incident command organization that periodically trains on the
plan, remains the single best remediation and risk management action
any school, community college or university can take.
See RSI's testimony to the Connecticut Bipartisan Task Force Subcommittee on School Safety here:
The U.S. Department of Education’s
Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools recently managed large direct
grants to school districts and institutions of higher education
through a competitive grant application process. The grants from this
Office have been de-funded during the budget reductions in Washington, and the popular programs were
In the absence of federal involvement, states should consider
creating their own programs and standards, just as the State of Nevada has done so
effectively. It is a viable way to “level” schools and school
districts across the state by bringing them all up to the prescribed
set of standards. To succeed, however, state mandates must be
accompanied by the provision of adequate state funding.
The only remaining federal safety program available to school
districts and their cities’ police departments is the Department of
Justice’s Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) “Secure Our
Schools” grants. These grants require the law enforcement department
to write the grant, while the grant funds (which must be matched by
the sponsoring city) are to be used by the schools for security
assessments, equipment and technology.
Designing Safe Schools and Campus Buildings
We often think
of school safety in terms of behavior. But, before the first student
walks the halls, an architect draws on paper or computer the design
of the school and what will be the subsequent relationships of
people to their buildings. The success or failure of that school’s
safety to a great extend depends on the quality of design and the
limitations of the construction budget. Operating a safe school
takes a lot more effort and supervision at a poorly designed
facility than in a well-designed and functional academic space with
safety and security “architected” into it from the start – a
practice called Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design
The basic CPTED
premise is that through the effective use and design of the built
environment, there can be a reduction in the opportunity for, and fear
of crime, resulting in the improvement in the quality of life.
If we (collectively) can create the next generation of schools and
college facilities to be built for the effective use of space with
CPTED features, they will substantially reduce the opportunity for
crimes to be committed there, and will reduce fear of crime within
them, as well.
There is a relationship between the school
environment and its relationship to violent and criminal behavior.
Examples of potential problems include:
borders are often poorly defined
gathering areas that are out of sight
layout produces isolated spots
- Bus loading
areas often in conflict with car traffic
parking lots are often on outermost areas
parking creates conflict with the neighborhood
- Parking areas
are often obscured by plantings
- Locker areas
often create conflict & confusion and enable hiding of contraband
- The overuse
of corridors creating blind spots
rooms are located away from supervision
CPTED is a powerful
concept that may be used to improve the productive use of space and to
make schools safer. Architectural features, structural enhancements
and spatial definition can deter, detect, and delay potential violent
offenders from entering school campuses and buildings.
The threats to
a school are either going to be external (threats from outside
influences and persons), or internal (threats from students, faculty,
staff, workplace violence). CPTED can make a direct impact
on reducing the outside external threat through use of natural
access control, surveillance, and territoriality boundary definition,
management and maintenance strategies. The internal threats can
be primarily deterred through policy and procedure strategies and
management techniques, and less through physical design. When a school
has multiple entrances and many ground floor windows, the threat and
vulnerability level increases greatly, and makes the facility and its
occupants infinitely more difficult to protect.
design involves four key security layering/defensible space planning
practices: site design, building design, interior spaces, and
systems & equipment. Site Design addresses planning
safety into landscaping, exterior pedestrian routes, vehicular routes,
parking and recreational areas. Building design does so
for building organization, exterior covered corridors, points of
entry, enclosed exterior spaces, ancillary buildings, walls, windows,
doors, roofs, and lighting. Interior spaces address
safety features of lobby and reception areas, corridors, toilets and
bathrooms, stairs and stairwells, cafeterias, auditoriums, gyms,
libraries and media centers, classrooms, locker rooms, labs, shops,
music and computer rooms, and administrative areas.
Systems and equipment address alarms and surveillance systems;
fire control, HVAC & mechanical equipment, vending machines, water
fountains, elevators and telephone and information systems.
CPTED deals with a school’s relationship with its immediate
surroundings, communicated through the edge connections. It
addresses clear lines of site to the play, gathering, and parking
areas for administrators; clear observation from classrooms and of
vehicular traffic; surveillance points; exterior circulation patterns;
traffic calming; spatial/temporal separation of safe/unsafe
activities; covered circulation design to minimize blind spots and
entrapment points; accessibility issues and main entry security;
avoiding recessed entries; making sure doorway and corridor design
coexist safely; and well defining formal courtyards and gathering
places, where observation, lighting, accessibility, and safety are all
design and management considerations. Safe school design addresses
walls and hiding place they might create; window design for light,
ventilation, and privacy, without easy entry; door security; roof
access; strategically placed CCTV
cameras; use of duress alarms in isolated areas; and integrating
communication systems within the design.
the success of school security design include:
of security design and programs
of security programs and features
of security technology and practices
assets that are worthy of being protected
threats to what is vulnerable to attack and loss
Characterizing the environment to balance the needs to the threats
CPTED considerations are important in this time of
debate about school safety, gun ownership and mental health. Because
many school buildings in the U. S. were constructed to achieve an
inviting and open campus style, with multiple buildings, multiple
entrances and exits, big windows and many opportunities for privacy,
one unintended consequence is poor safety. Incorporating the
principles and practices of CPTED in the design and remodeling of
schools can contribute to the safety of the school while reducing the
target hardening and the “fortressing” effects of a bunker mentality.
Schools should not undervalue the importance of good maintenance, good
construction, and good design in their approach to school safety.
The effective implementation of emergency management practices and
operational continuity planning by both campus officials and local
external agencies is both under heightened national scrutiny and more
direct mandates. But the extraordinary challenges facing Higher
Education institutions in ensuring the safety and security of their
students, staff, physical plant and infrastructure are nothing new for
risk-aware, progressive schools. After critical incidents occur, the
maintenance of their reputation and the predictable continuity of
their operations become equally important.
Risk Solutions International has developed emergency and business
continuity plans for numerous large state supported public
institutions, Ivy league schools, large private universities, urban
community colleges, and religiously affiliated colleges across the
Services and Solutions
Risk Solutions International provides Higher Education institutions
with a complete campus operational risk solution. As an independent,
third party expert that manages to accepted industry standards, our
assessments, planning methodology, materials, training, and technology
help colleges address the four phases of emergency management across
all types of threats and hazards. We help clients understand their
total “operational risk footprint” including operational continuity
and disaster recovery which, along with physical security concerns,
affect their insurance costs and legal liability profile.
As an active member of the University Risk Management & Insurance
Association (URMIA), Risk Solutions International’s services are fully
compatible with the National Incident Management System (NIMS) and
Incident Command System (ICS) standards. They meet all federal, state,
and local regulations— and are widely considered leading practices.
They address all natural and man-made emergencies which cause critical
incidents, the effect these have on smooth educational and operational
continuity, and the resulting crisis management issues relating to
reputation damage and human recovery:
Independent Assessments & Benchmarking
Campus Security & Vulnerability Assessments
Regional Threat Assessments
Crisis Preparedness Capabilities & Needs Assessments
Business Continuity/COOP Assessment Program
Online Safety/Security Awareness & Perception Surveys
Standards-Compliant Crisis & Emergency Plans
Emergency Response Plans
Crisis Communications Plans
Classroom and Residence Hall Emergency Procedures Guides
Student/Staff Emergency Procedures Guides
Business Continuity/COOP Plans
Business Impact Analyses and IT Disaster
Suite of Training Courses & Exercise
Drills and Tabletop, Functional & Videotaped Full Scale Exercises
Specialty Role Training for Security, Facilities, Faculty and
100% NIMS and ICS Aligned
Courses in Threat Assessment and Behavioral Management, Crisis
Communications and Media Management, Food Safety and Defense, Post
Incident Psychological Recovery
Business Continuity Plan Training
Market-leading web-hosted Emergency Management Plans
Visual Asset Manager™ - a viewer, manager and repository
of aerial photos of college floor plans, facilities, photos
of fire suppression, mechanical and utility systems, 360º
photography, and IP-based CCTV feeds – that enhances the
situational awareness of internal and external first responders.
Hosted Risk Assessment, Business Continuity Planning, Disaster
Recovery and Incident Management Tools that bring the entire
institution into compliance and balance - with each department
having a detailed, perpetually-editable portfolio of plans online.
For additional information on Risk Solutions International’s
operational risk capabilities in the Education sector, please contact
Scott Corzine at SCorzine@rsi-llc.com.