This isn’t the easiest topic to discuss, but it seems that as soon as a tragedy occurs we all start having more serious conversations about safety precautions. While starting the conversation is paramount, the most important thing to consider is the type of conversation districts are having. Sometimes schools discuss budgetary restrictions or statistics of repeat incidents and lose sight of the risk. Other times, schools have conversations about specific equipment they would like to purchase and/or install. While this is certainly more productive than inaction, it’s doesn’t necessarily help to achieve campus safety. So what conversations should you be having?
We already broached this subject in our article "What Campus Safety is Not." We outlined the most common requests we get from school districts (i.e., just a list of equipment to install) and go in depth about how technology alone does not constitute a comprehensive campus safety strategy. Without true collaboration, a culture of awareness, a third-party audit conducted by an objective organization, and a thorough understanding of how individuals will act during an emergency situation, a school district is likely sinking its (limited) funds into systems that cannot achieve safety on their own. The goal of your district's first conversation should be to agree on a meaningful definition of campus safety and determine how that definition will map to a purpose-built plan with measurable success criteria.
Here's our definition to get you started, courtesy of DGI Vice President, Jason Eatmon: “Campus safety is a philosophy, not a list of disparate systems. It is the amalgamation of all of these systems glued together by vision and policies derived within a culture of awareness.”The Role of Technology
Many “technology projects” involve purchasing a list of equipment, installing that equipment, and making sure the blinky lights are green, but this approach is an ineffective way to run most projects, and it’s downright dangerous for campus safety. Here’s just one example of that risk:
We may sound like a broken record, but it’s worth repeating: Network security has never been more important than it is today with regard to overall campus safety strategy. This is mainly due to the expanding demand we place on our networks and the advent of network-dependent security systems (such as access control and mass notification systems). The least effective way to contribute to a safe environment is to place more equipment on a network that is vulnerable to failure or hacks, and if you haven’t had a meaningful review of your network recently, this is a very real possibility.
The vast majority of campus safety technology projects don’t take the network into consideration, and this is just one example of key elements that are often missed. Technology can be a great contributor to the safety and security of your students but only when applied in a meaningful way within a campus safety ecosystem.
How to Prioritize Budgeting for Safety
Once you have a fully developed campus safety strategy and discussed the role of technology in accomplishing the defined success criteria, it’s time to determine your funding source. At this point, it doesn’t actually matter if school budgets are tight; safety has to be treated as a priority. So the conversation needs to begin with “how are we going to accomplish this?” rather than “can we accomplish this?” Administrators, teachers, government officials, and parents need to start discussing the very real question of how the school/district is going to procure funding for something as important as keeping the students on campus safe from potential threats. While there’s no easy solution to this issue, the more stakeholders that get involved, the more quickly this issue will be on its way to resolution.
Here’s a quick way to get the conversation started: Download our free campus safety checklist so that you and your team can start to understand the first steps toward creating a safer environment for your students.