As children around the U.S. start a new school year, the recent spate of mass shootings in Texas, Ohio and elsewhere is very much on the minds of their parents.
Despite the understandable dread these shootings arouse, however, it’s important to maintain a balanced awareness of the full array of campus risks, and to take proactive measures to prevent (or at least prepare for) all of them.
The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) recently issued this timely reminder: “Shootings are just one of many traumatic events that children may face at school. They may also be threatened or injured by a weapon, be bullied, be physically assaulted, or be affected by natural disasters.”
This so-called ‘all-hazards’ focus can sometimes lead to a disconnect between parents and school administrators. The NIJ acknowledged that the general public’s views on school safety “are often shaped by high-profile school shootings and other tragic incidents that dominate a news cycle. For educators, however, issues such as bullying, harassment, and school discipline policies are at the forefront of their thoughts and can affect school safety on a daily basis.”
One NIJ official put it even more bluntly: “We cannot allow the saliency of mass shooter events to overshadow the importance of a wide range of more common safety issues that schools face.”
The NIJ, under the U.S. Department of Justice, has been studying and funding pioneering new approaches to improved school safety for decades, which gives it a commendably balanced perspective on the risks confronting all K-12 campuses.
Its initiatives over the years have included everything from how to prevent tragic incidents like school shootings to how to promote a positive school environment where day-to-day challenges, like bullying and harassment, can be reduced.
Proper risk management enables school leaders to prioritize their preparedness, prevention and response mechanisms to account for the realities they face, and to even as those realities evolve.
At Haystax we are big believers in a risk-based all-hazards approach to school safety and security, meaning it’s important to be equally prepared for the adverse events that don’t involve active shooters — like bomb threats, illegal drug and gang activity, accidents and bullying — and of course for natural hazards like hurricanes, earthquakes, floods and wildfires.
For this reason, we have built a seamlessly integrated set of tools in our Haystax platform for:
- Conducting threat and vulnerability assessments using mobile devices on-site, where the most salient information and photos can be collected.
- Managing a full array of safety drills to prepare schools for active shooters, fires, accidents and natural disasters.
- Ingesting existing data like camera and sensor feeds, incident and 911 alerts, weather, traffic data and the like to aid in rapid decision-making (e.g., lock down or remain open?).
- Enabling districts to maintain and update emergency plans, floor plans and site maps of each school, to benefit first responders and school security directors and maintain campus-wide preparedness.
The NIJ is quick to point out that technology goes hand in hand with proper procedures, training and communication in any effective school safety strategy. In fact, it added: “No one technology, school climate intervention, or other school safety strategy can guarantee school security or eliminate the underlying cause of school violence. An integrated approach that includes emergency response plans, drills, a positive school climate, and situational awareness is called for, and school security plans must be tailored to the needs of each individual school.”
We couldn’t agree more.
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Note: Learn more about Haystax’s all-hazards approach to school risk management by downloading our latest white paper: Managing School Safety in the 21st Century, which can be found on the Resources page of our website.