Avoid Vigilance Fatigue with a Holistic Approach to School Safety and Security
One of the highest priorities for an educator to manage is the safety and security of their students and staff. Without a sense of safety and security, classrooms cannot provide an environment conducive to teaching and learning. Raising school aged children of my own requires me to acknowledge the above mentioned as not only a professional, but also as a personal responsibility. How do we appropriately address and tackle this increasingly complex issue? Start by nurturing the whole child; meeting their social, emotional and mental health needs by providing a holistic approach to their overall development.
What happens when a child’s school receives a phone call concerning a potential bomb threat or an active shooter visits their campus? It is a parent's worst nightmare. And, unfortunately, in today's society, a reality for educators and the schools they serve across the country. Since the tragic events that took place inside Columbine High School or more recently on the campuses of Virginia Tech or Sandy Hook Elementary, safety and security measures in schools have vastly improved, but sadly the risk of violence is still prevalent and presents itself in a variety of different forms. While our education system as a whole has taken great strides to improve upon their efforts to try and bolster school safety and security, many districts still remain reactive. However, by implementing continued professional development and taking advantage of advancements in technology there are tools available to protect schools and assist in alleviating these fears more proactively.
Social and Emotional Learning
Partnering with a community based counseling agency is a practical and proven way to address student mental health. Often, these outreach programs are governmentally funded and can offer services by adding human resources, such as a professional community resource coordinator, prevention programs coordinator and/or a school-based therapist. These newly acquired professionals will most definitely impact the student body as well as the teaching staff. Many of these organizations work closely with school counselors to facilitate opportunities for ongoing professional development thus educating everyone on what to look for in regards to a child's deteriorating mental health. This symbiotic relationship provides a network of interconnected faculty working together to ensure a successful educational experience that helps recognize thriving students and the warning signs of those who may be struggling. Building these personal yet professional relationships with each child is necessary in order to connect life at school and at home with the added bonus of further safeguarding the school district.
A critical component of the safety and security puzzle is the ability for one to consistently stay alert, attentive and observant. Without constant nurturing or by putting the appropriate pieces in place, it is completely normal for educators to experience some form of vigilance fatigue. As the frequency or media coverage of tragic incidents within schools decreases combined with a lack of regular stress inoculation or the psychotherapy method intended to help us prepare in advance to handle stressful events successfully and with a minimum of upset, we, as educators with our unending list of roles and responsibilities, are easily susceptible. However, a built-in system for worthwhile professional development along with shared relationships between school officials and community resources such as local law enforcement will help cement safety and security procedures in one's muscle memory.
Apply The School Shooter: A Threat Assessment Perspective written by representatives of The United States Department of Justice and Federal Bureau of Investigation to create threat assessment teams or a group of officials that convene to identify, evaluate and address threats in each school building within the district. Reviewing a student's personality, family, school and social dynamics through the use of this standardized method for responding to threats is critically important and can assist with avoiding another tragedy. When developing these teams, be sure to include all staff members each student may come in contact with throughout the school day. Do not forget to add outside resources as well. Said resources include, but are not limited to counseling services, fire, police, etc...
Adopting School Safety and Security Technology
NaviGate Prepared, a virtual safety response tool to develop and execute an effective school safety program, provides a simple, yet comprehensive approach to school safety and security procedures; holding everyone accountable for providing a safe and secure environment. In an effort to stay proactive, perform monthly evacuation drills, discuss table top exercises and share current hot topics and relevant research with all staff often through the use of regularly scheduled newsletters, white papers, etc... NaviGate Prepared's platform organizes much of this information in such a way that it provides school administrators with an excellent opportunity for oversight without having to micromanage.
Please read below to learn more about a handful of features NaviGate Prepared offers to all schools in order to support a safe and secure climate and culture:
- Drill Logs: Drill logs allow school leaders to schedule, log and review statistics relative to fire, tornado and evacuation drills. Printable reports makes this feature a huge time-saver. What used to be an arduous task full of bureaucratic paperwork is now completed with just a few clicks of the mouse. With that in mind, NaviGate Prepared is consistently providing new processes in an effort to streamline old procedures. The extra time allotted provides school districts with the chance to expand upon emergency scenarios and situations. By throwing variables into each drill, they can simulate actions outside of the norm.
- Flipcharts: Flipcharts not only immediately provide emergency procedures right at your fingertips, but also general safety and security information all in one location. This feature helps educators avoid the experience of an adrenaline dump or nature's way of preparing the body for fight or flight in the event of a crisis.
Flipcharts contain a number of safety and security procedures for lesser known events as well. For instance, school officials can use Flipcharts for an evacuation during lunch in the cafeteria, an athletic event in the evening or all other times atypical for regularly scheduled drills. Flipcharts also help with the process of parent-student reunification. Faculty members can quickly get organized using the information in Flipcharts at a predetermined area to reunite parents with their children in an orderly and safe fashion.
- Maps and Floor Plans: Time is precious in an emergency. All school building floor plans can be mapped using Maps and Floor Plans; allowing for routine use of this tool during staff meetings to educate everyone on how and where to locate primary and secondary exits, fire pulls and extinguishers, emergency shut-offs, etc... in case of an emergency.
Furthermore, Maps and Floor Plans are available to local law enforcement. This feature provides instant access to those unfamiliar with each and every school building on a district's campus from the safety of their own cruiser.
- Safety Plans: NaviGate Prepared sets school districts apart by creating and helping them organize comprehensive safety plans that are in compliance with state requirements. Additionally, NaviGate Prepared monitors changes in legislation, so school leaders can automatically update safety and security procedures in-line with ever changing mandates.
- The NaviGate Prepared App: Putting safety tools directly in the hands of staff and administrators provides peace of mind. The app includes the Flipcharts so emergency procedures are just a click away. It also includes the powerful Respond module which enables staff to account for students by name. By linking with a school's student information system, a teacher can retrieve a specific class roster and account for students. Administrators can see all activity on their dashboard as every teacher accounts for their students. This level of visibility provides immediate identification of any students unaccounted for which can save valuable time during an emergency. What's more, the app provides secure messaging between administrators and staff. Effective communication is critical during uncertain times, helping to maintain calm and inform first responders.
Improve upon Safety and Security through Innovation
3M's Safety and Security Window Film, the Lockdown Response System, Bearacade, the Visitor Management Solution and LobbyGuard are just a few more of the ways in which school districts can provide their community of learners with enhanced materials to help fortify overall safety and security protocols. This, as part of an innovative, comprehensive and holistic approach to keeping the education of the whole child in mind as described above can assist schools with providing an environment that is safe, secure and conducive to learning.