Q&A With a School Safety Expert

by | Nov 19, 2021 | Ask Gary, Gary's Blog, Q&A with Gary

The following questions will be answered by Gary L. Sigrist, Jr., President and CEO of Safeguard Risk Solutions.  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.

With the sophisticated reporting locking and security devices and systems, is it better going forward to have an emergency generator in a public school? Many still do not have one. What is a good back-up?

A Security and Vulnerability Assessment (SVA) will help you with this decision. Look at how many times you have lost power and it created a significant impact.  The more often a loss of power occurs, the greater the priority to put in a generator.  I did an SVA for a large district and the only buildings that had generators were their new buildings.  As buildings were taken offline, their replacements had generators.  However, they did not have a generator at their central office where all their servers were stored.  In the SVA, we recommended they add a generator.

Are the vulnerabilities things you can look for that can harm students and faculty that are inside of the school as well as things that are outside sources?

Yes, that is correct. Think of an SVA in the same way as you think about a Multi-Hazard Emergency Operations Plan.  You want to look at everything that your school is doing well and all things that may put your school at risk.

Are you aware of any special protective coverings for fire extinguishers to prevent unauthorized usage?

Unfortunately, there are not many options because there must be easy access to the fire extinguishers. If, during your SVA, you identify where and when the unauthorized use is happening, you can have staff be in the area when the event is happening or add security cameras to identify the offenders.

Can you identify the sequence of which assessments should be completed in which order or could be done simultaneously?

Everyone has their own methodology, but I always tried to follow the same format every time. SVAs should always be scheduled so key personnel know we are coming. I would get to the school before the custodian arrived.  I would follow him around during his building opening procedures.  We would go to all the wet rooms, storage areas, servers, basements, and areas that should normally be locked during the day. I would then go visit the kitchen.  I would check hallways and restrooms before students arrived.  Next, I would observe the students coming to school looking at everything from traffic flow to bus movement.  Once the students were in the building, I would work the outside of the buildings. I would move inside and begin going into classrooms.  It is important that teachers know you will be popping in their rooms.  I check out the library.  I would go to the office and talk to the secretary, then to the clinic and talk with the nurse, and then finish with my interview with the principal.  If you look at the files of my photograph, all my buildings follow that order, because that is what works for me.

How do you address Barricade Devices when you come across them on classroom doors in schools?

In Ohio, this is allowable if local authorities sign off on the devices.  I am opposed to them because they violate Fire Code and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).  As a Law Enforcement Officer (LEO) who trains Active Shooter Response to other LEOs, I believe they will delay getting help to the injured in a room.  As First Responders across the country implement Rescue Task Force (RTF) in their response protocols, fewer Fire Marshalls will sign off on these devices.

I am looking for an additional layer of security for my school, but I have limited funds available.  Do you have any recommendations?

An added unseen layer of school security would be to make your School or District’s Emergency Plans available to all of your teachers, administration, and staff member by using the Mobile Emergency Response Plan, or MERP, mobile application.  The MERP is a school emergency management software that allows your Emergency Plans and Contact Information to be on the desktops and mobile devices of your staff, bus drivers, and even local first responders.  The MERP comes with safety plans pre-installed but allows Schools and Districts to put their own safety plans in the hands of those that need it, when they need it.  Knowing how quickly plans can change, I designed this specific school emergency management software to allow the School or District to customize and revise their plans at any time for free.  At a base cost of only $750 with an additional $1 per user, you can’t afford not to have the MERP.  Every teacher, support staff, janitor, bus driver, and principal will have access to your school’s emergency plans and will be able to appropriately respond to any situation – from a student’s nose bleed to an angry parent in the school building to interacting with a student with COVID-19.

Submit your question about safety or emergency preparedness to Gary

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