Gary L. Sigrist, Jr., spoke with SSI sister publication Campus Safety on common emergency preparedness challenges.
Most school districts have created emergency plans and flipcharts that are designed to make their responses to various crises more effective and efficient. However, according to nationally known speaker, consultant, author and expert on emergency preparedness, Gary L. Sigrist, Jr., K-12 campuses must do much more. Additionally, they must expand their focus beyond active shooter response.
Sigrist will be presenting Beyond Compliance: More than an Emergency Operations Plan and Threat Assessments: Developing Teams to Plan, Prevent and Protect at the Campus Safety Conference West, which will take place in Long Beach, Calif., Aug. 9-10.
His background in both education and law enforcement gives him an invaluable perspective on safety and preparedness, which he brings to his work with clients of Safeguard Risk Solutions.
In this Q&A with SSI sister publication Campus Safety magazine, Sigrist discusses some common emergency preparedness challenges he’s seen in his work with hundreds of schools and gives attendees a preview of what they can expect from his these two timely and informational conference session.
Campus Safety: Why is thinking beyond compliance important for schools right now?
Sigrist: When I was a safety director for a school district, we had a readiness and emergency plan as part of a grant program. At that point I realized that a lot of people assume that they’re covered as long as they have safety plans on flip charts. In reality, it takes a lot more than that. You have to work with first responders, get their input, train with them, conduct exercises with them, and take numerous other steps to help your school be better prepared for a possible event.
Campus Safety: Why are first responders such a vital part of the process?
Sigrist: Because you can’t prepare for every possible event, but by working with police, fire, boards of health (i.e., for H1N1 outbreak-related issues), the Red Cross, and other organizations, you can take school safety to a new, more comprehensive level. It’s about thinking beyond threats like “active shooter,” understanding that the event in question could be a freak snowstorm.
Campus Safety: Where do districts tend to go wrong when it comes to compliance and threat assessments?
Sigrist: Many of them are overly reliant on hardware technology. For example, we’re seeing a lot more door barricades being installed in schools right now, with districts spending thousands of dollars on this type of hardware. For a more sustainable solution, however, these institutions should be investing in relevant training for staff members. That way, instead of responding to an event or problem, staff members will know how to effectively and efficiently get students out of a building and to safety—or prevent the event in the first place.
Campus Safety: What goes into an effective threat assessment?
Sigrist: With a threat assessment, you’re going to try to do three things. Number one, you’re going to prevent the attack from occurring. Number two, you’re going to try to protect the intended victims. Number three—perhaps most importantly—you’re going to try to get that person off the pathway to violence and get them the help that they need.
Campus Safety: Who should be involved in threat assessment initiatives on campus?
Sigrist: Your principal is the one who can make the key decisions; he or she is always the head or the designee for these strategies and plans. Depending on the severity of the situation, the school resource officer (SRO) may also be involved. The school psychologist, school counselor, and any teachers who are involved (i.e., with a particular “threat” or student) also come into play.
The third annual Campus Safety Conferences are education and training events for anyone who has a stake in ensuring the public safety and security of our nation’s schools, universities, and colleges. Taking place in Washington, D.C. July 25-26 and Long Beach, Calif., Aug. 9-10, the conferences provide full-day training workshops, a campus police chief and a K-12 safety panel, dozens of conference sessions, and more than 35 companies showcasing their products, services, and technologies.
To register for the Campus Safety Conferences, visit CampusSafetyConference.com. Gary Sigrist will be speaking at CSC West, K-12 Track, on Aug. 9-10.