SIA, NSCA to release school safety guidelines, tools at ISC West

Ronald L. Hawkins, manager of special projects and partnerships for SIA, talks about the Partner Alliance for Safer Schools
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Tuesday, March 24, 2015

One of the members of the Partner Alliance for Safer Schools (PASS) likens the effort to enhance school security to the move decades ago to establish fire prevention, alarm and suppression standards for schools.

“It’s been over 50 years since a child has died in a fire in a school,” Scott Lord of All Systems said. “NFPA codes have been so effective that a school fire really isn’t something that students, staff or parents worry about. We need to get school security to the same place.”

PASS was created by the Security Industry Association (SIA) and the National Systems Contractors Association (NSCA) to bring stakeholders together to contribute to that process.

In July 2014, about 20 PASS members and invitees gathered in Gwinnett County, Ga., to begin developing a set of guidelines for K-12 school security. Over three days, these members of the security industry, school officials and law enforcement officers put together a document outline and dozens of specific recommendations. Since then, group members have turned that outline and those recommendations into a how-to guide for securing a school.

Taking a “layered” approach to security, the guidelines build up defenses in different areas, such as parking lots, the main entrance and classrooms. Many of the recommendations include security technologies—in a strictly vendor-neutral way—but some are as simple as posting signage and establishing proper procedures. While the document is prescriptive, it is not one-size-fits-all. Risk level and resource availability is unique to each school, so the document divides recommendations within each layer into tiers, with the aggressiveness of the risk mitigation approach—and the investment required—increasing with each tier. The document also is not final. Rather, it is intended to be a living document that PASS will expand and update as risks and technologies change.

While school security concerns, at times, have become synonymous with mitigating the threat of active shooter incidents, these, thankfully, are rare (though, obviously, not rare enough). PASS members developed guidelines that will not only help to secure schools against armed intruders, but will also aid them in managing more mundane security issues.

“More than 99 percent of schools will, fortunately, never have to deal with an active shooter,” PASS Vice Chairman Jim Crumbley of Risk Response Team said. “Throughout this process, we have reminded ourselves that, while, yes, schools need to protect students and staff from that rare event, because it is so devastating, they also need to implement a security plan that addresses the day-to-day risks, such as bullying and crime in and around schools. We think we have a document that will help them do both.”

In addition to the guidelines, PASS members have developed a security assessment tool that schools can use to gauge their current level of preparedness. Both the guidelines and the assessment tool are to be unveiled at ISC West in Las Vegas on Thursday, April 16, at 9:15 a.m. in Sands Room 310. The guidelines will be available at no charge online at www.passk12.org.

“We are all very excited to get this resource into the hands of school administrators and security personnel,” PASS chairman Brett St. Pierre of HID Global said. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen a group of volunteers bring so much commitment, expertise and passion to a committee, and the results reflect that. We strongly believe this document will make a real difference in protecting our children.”