Unfortunately, many people do not know the differences between security and safety because so many security solutions have been misrepresented or misunderstood.
For over 30 years, I have had the privilege to assist thousands of organizations with multiple security related technologies, services, vendors and solutions. For the most part, Security related efforts are understood by most people because security efforts are focused primarily at REACTING to a risk or threat at your front door and/or REACTING to an incident or tragedy in progress. For example, security related efforts include, but are not limited to, doors/locks (to keep people/threats out), cameras (to record threats at your door and provide evidence after the incident or tragedy), security alarms and security sensors (to let you know a threat is onsite), visitor management systems (to screen threats at your front door), security and panic rooms, panic buttons, mass notification systems, armed guards, and armed staff. The bottom line is security efforts are focused at REACTING to some risk, threat, person or evil monster at your front door.
Safety is different, MUCH DIFFERENT. Safety is PREVENTING incidents and concerning behaviors from escalating into more serious events and tragedies. In other words, Safety is PREVENTING risks and threats from ever getting to your front door.
For schools and colleges (and organizations too), creating and maintaining a safer learning and working environment should be more about PREVENTING incidents and making sure students and staff do not come face to face with risks, threats and evil at their front door instead of REACTING to risks, threats and evil.
The really good news is… PREVENTING is possible. Post-event incident reports (like the Virginia Tech Review Panel Report and Safe Schools Initiative Report from the Department of Education / Secret Service and numerous others) clearly reveal proper incident management can PREVENT violent incidents from ever occurring.
Here’s another way to look at it. Smokey the Bear is all about PREVENTING forest fires and Smokey the Bear says “Only YOU can PREVENT wildfires”. Smokey the Bear understands that PREVENTING does not mean we create a law to ban matches. He understands that PREVENTING does not mean that we place “armed fire fighters” at every tree in every forest. His prevention strategy focuses on Awareness of consequences, Awareness of best practices, Awareness of surroundings and to speak up when YOU see someone in danger of starting a wildfire…Smokey the Bear understands PREVENTING. Smokey the Bear gets it and you can too!
Educational leaders can learn a lot from Smokey the Bear when it comes to PREVENTING student safety challenges like bullying, cyber bullying, suicides, mass shooters, drugs, alcohol, child abuse, sex abuse, gangs, threats to harm self and others.
Sadly and inexcusably we continue to see and read too many interviews and articles about failures to prevent where school leaders and government leaders continue to say “they failed to connect the dots” when schools and colleges (governments and organizations) failed to prevent preventable incidents, suicides and tragedies.
As long as school and college leaders continue to implement primarily Security efforts for REACTING to risks and threats rather than Safety efforts for PREVENTING incidents and tragedies, schools, colleges, government and organizations will continue “failing to connect all the right dots”.