Over the past three years, SafePlans has assisted school districts and communities adjacent to the Mexican border analyze security and emergency preparedness related hazards and vulnerabilities. These projects helped to develop Security Standards for Schools that are proximate to areas of Mexico that are heavily associated with Mexican drug cartel violence.
“Protecting schools from acts of violence can be incredibly complicated and is tragically imperfect.” Says Brad Spicer, SafePlans’ CEO whose background in SWAT and Executive Protection as a State Trooper led him to found SafePlans over 20 years ago. “When we look at area hazards for most U.S. schools, natural hazards like earthquakes or tornados are typically our primary focus . For many border community districts the risk of narco-terrorism, or terrorism associated with the drug trade, is a very real concern. Couple that with concerns of an ISIS affiliated group crossing our border to carry out a terrorist takeover attack on a school and it creates a very unique threat profile.”
Most of the SafePlans projects included formal site security assessments of school campuses along with the broader threat assessment of the community and the analysis of emergency plans, training of staff members and review of policies. Spicer goes on to explain, “I met with many school officials, public safety leaders and representatives from the federal department of Immigrations and Customs Enforcement and while these districts face some unique challenges, the local expertise and positive attitude is amazing. The border is a political issue but these people are not focused on the politics, they are committed to making their schools even safer.”
The assessments were developed with input from local stakeholders and integrated best practices –of Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) and the National Education Clearinghouse, along with SafePlans experience of working with thousands of schools in over 30 states. Results of the assessments were vetted through a robust three-tiered validation process. While client-specific recommendations will not be released, some common recommendations included:
- Enhanced access control to include secure vestibules
- Radios that are interoperable with local public safety
- The ability to lock classroom doors from inside the classroom
- Additional staffing during arrival and dismissal times
- Situational awareness training and reporting
- Comprehensive all-hazards emergency plans and training
- Replacing lockdown with Run-Hide-Fight Survival Options for active shooter type attacks
- Enhancing Heightened Security procedures for non-active shooter-type threats
School assessments were completed on mobile Apple and Android tablets using SafePlans’ Emergency Response Information Portal (ERIP) mobile app. ERIP is a secure all hazards solution that has been designated by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security as a qualified Anti-Terrorism Technology. Many districts expanded the security assessment project to include SafePlans’ emergency planning service which provides best practice emergency plans via mobile app.