Schools are increasing their awareness on how to plan for and respond to outbreaks of violence. PACE encourages members to develop comprehensive school safety plans that address prevention, preparedness, response and recovery.
Each district’s situation will vary on issues such as police response time and community values on the presence of permitted weapons on school grounds. One effective planning tool for any district, however, is conducting a safety audit of school structures, says Phil Wentz, facilities manager of the Tigard-Tualatin School District.
In January 2013, a month following the Sandy Hook tragedy, Tigard-Tualatin school officials held a walk-through of a high school and elementary school. Also present were police and fire officials, and representatives of PACE and Beecher Carlson, the district’s broker.
“We looked at what improvements we could make, which ones would be simple to do, and we’ve started to prioritize those ideas and determine what’s practical and what’s not,” said Wentz, who also serves on PACE’s Board of Trustees.
Wentz said examples of improvements already made include installing peepholes in exterior kitchen doors, changing locks and installing stanchions to clearly direct foot traffic.
For schools that wish to go a step further and conduct safety drills, PACE offers members these general guidelines:
Communicate often and openly with parents, students, teachers and other staff before conducting simulation drills.
Design drills that are thoughtful, provide opportunities for teachable moments and avoid scenarios that could traumatize the participants. Build plans from successful models.
Work closely with local law enforcement agencies.
Adopt and practice standard responses to emergency situations.
A wide variety of resources are available to assist in safety planning, among them: