**By Kerry Goodwin, Puget Sound Director of School Security**
In my role as Director of School Security for the Puget Sound, I work with schools and school district to make sure that their students, employees and facilities are as safe and secure as possible. Beyond verified school alarm systems, managed access control or surveillance cameras, I want to educate schools on how they can improve their total security in every way they can.
I’ve extracted a few of the most helpful recommendations from the US Department of Justice COPS Report on School Vandalism and Break-Ins, which is a source I draw on in helping schools become more secure. Click here to access the complete report.
Setting priorities. It is impossible to address every vulnerability at a school. Examining the relationship between the monetary and social costs of specific instances of vandalism, burglary, or arson can be useful in setting strategic priorities among your responses. In general, protecting high-value items, administrative areas, computer and technology labs, computer system hubs, clinics, libraries, and band rooms will mitigate the risk of events with high financial and social costs.
If the district can’t afford to invest in an upgraded system throughout the school, upgrade the key areas with a system that can provide verified alarms and that can be expanded in the future and progress in phases.
Using the media wisely. News stories, advertising slogans, and posters are all effective ways to transmit information to the community about the impact of school vandalism and break-ins. Using student-based information sources, such as school newspapers, student councils, athletic events, and parent newsletters, can also help to ensure that the messages reach the intended audiences. However, there is a risk that media attention might promote the concept of achieving notoriety through high-profile crimes against school property. Thus, journalists should avoid sensationalizing the events, and focus instead on the resources being squandered and the loss experienced by students, as well as the consequences faced by offenders.
When would-be criminals find out that they are likely to get caught and prosecuted, the glamor of the crime fades quickly and the risk of arrest becomes a powerful deterrent.
Reducing the availability of combustibles. Most arson fires are started with materials found on-site. For this reason, indoor and outdoor trash cans should be emptied regularly, and any flammable chemicals in science labs and maintenance storage areas should always be properly secured.
Managed keyless entry or a well-organized lock system can make sure flammable chemicals stay out of the wrong hands.
Reducing False Alarms. False alarms not only cost the school if a fine is imposed, but also waste police resources. Faulty or inappropriately selected equipment and poor installation are among the main causes of false alarms. Select equipment that will provide verified school alarms, enabling the dispatcher to send the police with confidence that the alarm is the real deal.
One way that schools can show respect for their local police departments is by keeping false alarms to a minimum. Alarm verification and extensive training can make sure that real crimes don’t get overlooked while officers respond to false alarms.
I love talking school security. If you have questions about the schools in your area and how they can be more secure places, please give me call.