School Security & Vulnerability Assessments: The Foundation for Enhanced School Safety & Security 

 February 2, 2019

By  Craig LaPine

Michigan School Safety Task Force Recommendation #1

Schools should complete a physical security assessment by October 2019 using a state approved assessment tool and every three years thereafter unless major construction is completed. If so, a physical security assessment should be completed immediately after the construction is finished.

The security assessment should identify the school’s capabilities and gaps such as:  Security/Emergency Management; Security Force; Entry Control; Fencing and Gates; Parking and Barriers; Building Envelope; and Closed-Circuit Video-Video Surveillance Systems.

As we prepare to present to the Michigan Association of Superintendents and Administrators (MASA) at the Renaissance Center in Detroit on February 7th, our team felt it would be important to articulate our position on School Security and Vulnerability Assessments.

Security assessments are the one element of the school safety and security ecosystem that we see being consistently addressed across the nation.  While there is little standardization on what an assessment analyzes (a quick Google search turned up dozens on “checklists” from federal, state, and local governments – as well as individual school districts and private sector vendors), something is better than nothing.  But how do you know if the assessment services you’ve purchased are of sufficient quality to provide the comprehensive, detailed, and useful results your district needs?

What does the assessment cover?

Generally speaking, a Physical Security Assessment (PSA) is a comprehensive physical inspection and evaluation of security systems, the individual elements of that system, and the systems controls.  At PrePlanLive, we believe a PSA is only a part of the total assessment.  Here are a few of the items we believe are core to making schools safer and more secure:

  • We go well beyond the physical plant, interviewing key stakeholders (administration, staff, SROs, and first responders) and understanding the district’s self-identified vulnerabilities
  • We review and provide gap analysis of policies and procedures with a focus on Emergency Operations Plans and Emergency Response/Action Plans
  • Closed-Circuit Video/Video Surveillance Systems are not the only Security Technologies schools have – or can have.  We address the full-range of Security Technologies, from cameras to access controls to communication to alerting/alarming/notification – and the ability to integrate those tools with a single platform (the PrePlanLive app).  We live in the 21st Century – PrePlanLive advocates for using 21st Century tools to protect our children
  • “Life Safety” – primarily Automated External Defibrillators (AED) and trauma/bleed control kits.  Are your AEDs actively managed, charged, and updated?  Do you have trauma/bleed control kits?  Do they contain tourniquets that are proven to be effective on the average size little human in your buildings (the answer is probably “no”).  We address these “Life Safety’ issues, and many more
  • Through our assessments, you are addressing 12 of the 29 recommendations specified by the MI School Safety Task Force

The foundation for our assessment methodology is rooted in the same principles used to protect the most sensitive people, places, and things in the United States.  Those are:  Personnel, Installations, Environment, Facilities, Activities, and Operations.

Who is conducting the assessment?

As with any other product or service, it is prudent to understand the quality and caliber of those who will provide that product or service to you.  This holds especially true when we discuss the safety and security of our schools.

The PrePlanLive assessment team has a combined 100+ years of experience in the following areas:

  • Threat/Vulnerability Assessments for the White House and White House Military Office supporting 2 presidential administrations
  • Planning, managing, and conducting security activities for the Department of the Navy’s Special Weapons and Nuclear Fuels programs
  • Law enforcement from the DoD to county level, including SWAT and tactical training specialists
  • Trauma medicine, paramedics, EMTs, the fire service, and Tactical Combat Casualty Care
  • Threat/Vulnerability Assessments for DoD facilities, installations, and Special Access Programs
  • Special Operations, Intelligence Operations, and Counterintelligence
  • Technology development and integration
  • Executive-level school administration, facilities management, human resources management, and security solution evaluation

We leverage this unique collective of perspective and experience to provide the very best in objective, evidence-based, and experience-based assessment, analysis, and recommendations.

What do I get as a ‘deliverable’ from this assessment?

A comprehensive, detailed, and – most importantly – useful report.  We believe in:

  • Being concise – you will NOT be receiving binder after binder filled with thousands of pages for you to sift through (for example, a report we recently authored for a district with 15+ facilities.  The report was 21 pages long, not counting enclosures)
  • Providing useful recommendations – everyone has resource constraints, and we are sensitive to that.  We address the most pressing needs of the district with ‘Findings,’ while our ‘Recommendations’ can be addressed in the near, mid, and long term
  • Impact over income – when we recommend solutions, our focus is on the positive impact the solution will have in your district, not the bottom line.  We don’t push 6-figure solutions (think cameras) as their impact is limited; we focus on the Critical Incident Management Mission Areas of Prevention, Protection, Mitigation, and Response – and the solutions that enable these functions

Our initial round of Findings and Recommendations do not name specific products or solutions.   We do, however, continue to work hand-in-hand with districts to identify those specific products or solutions – included as part of the assessment.

Safety and security in schools is of such importance that it requires partnerships, rather than business/client relationships.  We collaborate with other industry experts to develop or discover new and emerging products, techniques, and practices – and we share that information with our partner districts.  We stand ready to address new needs as they emerge and to partner with districts, whether small or large, to tackle the need for Protective Design in schools.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact us at via our website, phone, or social media (www.facebook.com/preplanlive or on Instagram @preplanlive).  For larger projects – those that include bond campaigns, construction design, construction management, as-builts, additions, etc. – our strategic partner in Protective Design is Barton Malow Company, one of the nation’s leading authorities in school design, construction, and safety. 

We can be reached at protectivedesign@bartonmalow.com.

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Craig LaPine
Craig LaPine