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Partner Alliance for Safer Schools Releases its Safety and Security Guidelines for School Districts

PASS recommendations include how to procure technology, policies and procedures and why the National Response Framework and NIMS are so important.

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The Partner Alliance for Safer Schools (PASS) has released its annual safety and security guidelines for K-12 schools. The guidelines are recommendations on technology, policies and procedures and training for school district administrators.

“When you look at school safety, we realize it’s different from coast to coast,” said Guy Grace, chairman and director of security and emergency preparedness for Littleton, Colo., Public Schools. “It’s often driven by culture and community. No one size fits all. Basically, the PASS guidelines are recommendations.”

Having said that, there are universal policies and procedures and technologies that can fit with any school district. The guidelines recommend that every school district understand and implement the National Response Framework and the National Incident Management System (NIMS).
Grace asserted that school employees are often the first responders to an incident and need to be empowered to respond accordingly.

“Whether it’s an active shooter, a tornado where the school is needed as a shelter, a hazardous material incident, school districts are going to face something in their community that is going to require them to use the incident command system,” Grace said. “We recommend that schools understand NIMS and implement incident command through the district.”

Much of what the guidelines recommend, such as NIMS training, is available free from the Department of Homeland Security. This training serves administrators during a crisis and also helps develop relationships with other local first responders, such as law enforcement, EMS, mental health personnel and fire.

“You’re doing threat assessments, building memorandums of understanding between police agencies, the Red Cross, churches for evacuations and unification points, etc.,” Grace said.

The guidelines also help school districts navigate the procurement process when it comes to technology. “A school district might not have a security director or someone who is in charge of their security operations, so the recommendations help administrators get an understanding of the technology and put them on equal footing when putting out a bid or working with a manufacturer,” Grace said.

The guidelines address technology as a layered approach related to building perimeter, parking lot perimeter, classroom interior, and how to use the technology in compliance with policies and procedures.

“We believe this approach provides a simplified way for administrators to effectively evaluate their security infrastructure, prioritize investment and maximize security in ways that are consistent with longstanding security practices and ensure a baseline of facility security measures appropriate for school facilities,” said Mark Williams, PASS vice chairman.

The guidelines urge, “as a bare minimum,” that school districts have a safety team for each school and each district. In fact, the recommendations suggest developing a district crisis response team; a building crisis response team; a district safety planning team; a building safety planning team; a multiagency crisis planning team; a threat assessment team; and a psychological recovery team.

“It’s necessary in your district,” Grace said. “I don’t care what district you are, you’re going to have emergencies.”

The guidelines include a checklist of policies and procedures, technologies, training and so forth that are divided into tiers from the most intense to less intense.