The school shooter in DeKalb County, GA allegedly gained entry to the heavily secured school by “piggy-backing”, following someone with controlled access through the door. Does your school have a policy to prevent this potential risk? Do you tell your employees not to hold the door open for others? How are visitors managed on a day to day basis?
Most schools try to steer visitors to one controlled entry point, the “front door”. Reconfiguring school entrances to direct all traffic here is good. However, many schools may then develop tunnel vision and only focus on the security of that front entrance. It is important to look at all possible entranceways and ensure your staff understand the importance of ensuring these doors are locked. Are you sure staff aren’t propping open a side door during cigarette breaks? Do the cafeteria workers take trash out a back door? Are students going out other doors during open lunch?
It is important to create a clear written policy that provides employees and students with direct instructions about access points. You should also have a clear policy for employees when bringing in outside visitors and provide regular training. If you do have an electronic access control system, you will want to assign expected visitors a temporary pass. This will help identify these “strangers” to others and ensure safe access.
You can enhance security at main entrances with surveillance cameras to monitor visitors to and outside the school. However, who is responsible for monitoring the cameras? Are the tapes only reviewed after the fact?
If personnel does notice someone unknown on school grounds, then what? You may want to have a designated staff member or security guard that approaches the visitor and assesses the situation. All other staff should be encouraged to always report suspicious people immediately.
Security systems are a great first step, but the most important aspect of your visitor management policy remains your PEOPLE. The systems will only work if everyone understands their responsibilities for following procedures correctly.
So, how can you ensure all students and staff know your school procedures? How do you update them if passcodes or protocols change?
Several school districts across the Nation are utilizing Awareity’s TIPS, our web-based prevention platform, to share policies, procedures, training, maps, etc. with the appropriate personnel (and third-parties) and ensure all individuals have acknowledged their roles and responsibilities. By providing this on-demand resource, all school employees are always aware of the latest procedures for prevention.
TIPS also allows for anonymous and confidential reporting of suspicious incidents, safety concerns, etc. and provides safety team members with the tools to effectively and immediately investigate and respond. You can’t prevent what you don’t know about – it is so critical to involve your entire school community in your safety efforts and motivate everyone to speak up if suspicious activities or concerning behaviors are observed.