In this edition of “Gary’s Guide” Gary L. Sigrist, Jr., President and CEO of Safeguard Risk Solutions will provide his insights on the capabilities of and value in utilizing the Readiness and Emergency Management for Schools Technical Assistance, or REMS TA, Center.
Gary is a nationally known speaker, consultant, author and expert on emergency preparedness. His career spans more than 30 years as an educator, administrator and police officer. Gary’s background in both education and law enforcement gives him a unique perspective on safety and preparedness, which he brings to his work with clients of Safeguard Risk Solutions.
I think the REMS TA Center is the best kept secret for K12 and Higher Ed safety and I am working on letting everyone in on that secret. New Jersey has mandated that schools use the REMS SITE ASSESS tool, and I wish all states would follow suit. In the United States, there is a national standard for fire safety with the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). What we lack in this country is a national standard on school and college safety.
I have done Security and Vulnerability Assessments (SVA) for K12 and Higher Education all over the United States, and I have done SVAs for businesses, healthcare facilities, and public utilities in both the United States and Southeast Asia. The skill set for all of these is the same, but what you look for in each SVA is different based on the facility type. This is the reason I am such an advocate for the SITE ASSESS tool that was developed by the REMS TA Center.
As indicated on the REMS TA Center’s website, the SITE ASSESS tool is a free mobile application for education agencies that allows personnel to walk around buildings and grounds and examine their safety, security, accessibility, and emergency preparedness. SITE ASSESS can be used for both K12 and Higher Ed and will guide the user through every phase of the SVA, even if that user does not have the training or background, eliminating the financial burden of needing an outside consultant. Aside from utilizing your area’s First Responders to work alongside school staff, SITE ASSESS will guide users to assess playgrounds, parking lots, and school grounds’ safety.
It is important to remember that SVAs should not be conducted to only address a school safety issue, but also as general risk management: How do we prevent bad things from happening? How do we reduce liabilities and prevent lawsuits and negative media attention? How can we identify areas of concern so we can develop a long-term budget to address those concerns? SITE ASSESS will become your Subject Matter Expert in assisting you with overcoming skeptics as your recommendations will be based on the US Department of Education best practices.