Below is the next series of questions my clients and colleagues have submitted to me through past Gary’s Guide to School Safety blog posts, via email, and directly to me through LinkedIn. Be sure to submit your safety and preparedness questions below to be featured on my next Gary’s Guide Q&A.
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 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’ve been reading about the Mobile Emergency Response Plan in your Q&A blog posts, but I’m not exactly sure of what it is. Is this an app for a phone or is it only for desktop computers? I’m not sure my District would be willing to spend a ton of money on an app. Would you be able to do a demonstration of the MERP for my District?
I’m going to answer your second question first: Yes, I am always available for a live demonstration and to answer any questions you or your Administration may have about the MERP. You can CLICK HERE to schedule a free demonstration with me at your convenience, or scroll down to request access to a free, self-guided MERP demo. You will receive instant MERP download and login instructions upon entering the information below.
The MERP is a school emergency management software that allows your Emergency Plans, Floor Plans, and Contact Information to be on the mobile devices and/or desktops of your staff. The MERP comes pre-loaded with emergency plans that were developed with input from five Fire Departments, four Law Enforcement Agencies, the County Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security, and the County Board of Health. Knowing how quickly plans can change, I designed the MERP to allow the School or District to customize and revise their plans at any time for free. I also designed the MERP with the end-user in mind, ensuring your staff would not require hours of training to put Emergency Plans into action. The MERP can be implemented at your School in less than a day, enabling your staff to begin using the app immediately.
As far as affordability, one of my main reasons for designing the MERP was to ensure Schools could make their plans available to those responsible for turning plan into action during an emergency. Let’s consider printed plans versus the MERP: A 100-page plan condensed and printed to laminated flipcharts with wired-binding will cost a School upwards of $35,000.00. And that is just ONE copy. When that plan changes and needs reprinted, there’s another $35,000.00 cost. Meanwhile, the base cost of a one-year license of the MERP is $750, plus $1 per user. A ‘user’ is defined as any person who will access the MERP through their computer or mobile device and identifying your users will be a decision I can help you make when you request a live demo with me. While Teachers are a clear choice to be included in your user list, consider your auxiliary staff, your bus drivers, and your local First Responders. Many School Districts will provide access to the First Responders who will support their School during an emergency, so they have immediate access to building floorplans and up-to-date contact information at their fingertips.
SCENARIO: Let’s consider a School District that has four elementary schools, an intermediate school, a middle school, and a high school that graduates approximately 350-450 students each year. To make each Teacher, Coach, Cafeteria Worker, School Resource Officer, School Nurse, Guidance Officer, and Janitor a MERP User and provide an individual login to each local First Responder, the annual cost of the MERP is $1,180.00. For under $1,200.00, this School District has placed their own Emergency Plans, Building Floorplans with Evacuation Maps, Contact Information with a direct-dial feature, and pre-loaded plans in the hands of the people who will be responding to an emergency.
All this information can leave you with more questions than answers I’ve provided, but that’s why I’m here and that’s why Safeguard Risk Solutions exists: To be a free resource to those tasked with keeping students and staff safe. The MERP is an affordable tool to aid in those efforts.