Entries by Sec Marketing

, ,

Preparedness Past the Initial Crisis

A shortcoming in preparedness, often identified during assessments by SEC, is a lack of training past the initial chaos of any crisis.    Loved ones and family members responding to the scene of any actual or perceived crisis, especially involving children, are going to have emotions at a fevered pitch.  The desire for immediate, accurate information by these well-intentioned individuals is going to be even more prevalent this school year.  No one managing or in charge of a scene should expect anything less. 

An excellent example of what should be expected sadly played out on August 12
th in El Mirage Arizona. Video footage showed anxiety levels at their highest, with school administrators and law enforcement officials tasked with managing individuals showing raw emotions – anxious for information and resolution – but also belligerent and aggressive.  An individual’s concealed handgun fell to the ground, obviously creating additional panic in an already very crowded volatile situation with the initial suspect still being sought.

Considerations for any emergency crisis plan should include but not be limited to the following:

  • An expansive outer perimeter that provides enough space for emergency responders to work and focus on the task resolution at the event
  • Control points on that outer perimeter to maintain scene integrity – the larger the outer perimeter the better 
  • Primary and secondary off-site evacuation sites, properly prepared, that will also facilitate assembly points for loved ones and family members for re-unification
  • Resources that are available to facilitate movement to the off-site evacuation site(s)
  • Sufficient personnel to meet, brief and keep loved ones and family members informed in person and via text on a regular basis – this should include a PIO(P) component to deal with media
  • Sufficient process for student / staff / visitor accountability
  • Sufficient process for re-unification
  • De-escalation & verbal communication training for staff
  • Designated emergency responder liaison 
  • Sufficient process for mobilizing other district or partner resources to augment staff that are “plug and play” because of identical training and procedures

Seemingly now more than ever, the public is questioning emergency responder tactics and capabilities.  This could lead to highly charged confrontations at the scene that only compound and worsen the situation.  Working in advance with emergency responders in the form of communication, drills and non-enforcement presence on site can foster support and confidence that is helpful when a crisis occurs.  

Preparedness and a robust communication component well past the point of the alert and initial response, are going to be necessary to help successfully navigate these very challenging events.   

SEC can assist with this and all aspects of crisis preparedness – do not wait for an event to happen to try and figure out how to work through it.

, ,

Top 6 Security Mistakes

1. Chasing the last high-profile emergency

Unlike other organizations, school districts experience intensified pressure to prepare for emergencies. The responsibility of protecting children can weigh heavily on school boards, administrators, and staff. Schools are inundated with conflicting opinions on what makes safer environments, and the emotions surrounding safety are amplified in the wake of a tragedy. Schools often find themselves in a position of “chasing” the previous emergency. Purchases, staffing, plans, and trainings implemented in the aftermath of a significant incident are often based on perceptions of what would have prevented or reduced the impact of that emergency. This leads to poor decisions based on emotion without consideration for risk assessment.

Security and safety dollars are often competing with other financial obligations. Making decisions based on fear can lead to wasted resources with unintended consequences. Chasing the most recent high-profile incident seldom produces the desired reduction in incidents. This occurs when schools prioritize response over prevention. Decision-making bodies overestimate the value of physical security in comparison to preventative strategies. This miscalculation persists because preventative strategies, such as in-depth assessments and behavioral threat assessment programs, are intangibles.

2. Failure to understand the threats

Another mistake is failure to understand the source and nature of the threats. The factors that influence threats are varied and include age of students, physical location, size of staff, proximity to high-risk areas, etc.  It is imperative to determine what threats are possible and focus any preventative efforts on those areas. Districts should invest resources into assessing threats by utilizing the following process:

    1. Determine the full scope of all potential risks.
    2. Determine the probability or frequency of each risk.
    3. Evaluate the impact each risk could have on the organization.
    4. Project realistic timelines for purchase, installation, training, and full implementation based on the severity of the identified threat.

3. Failure to identify gaps and weaknesses

Every organization has gaps or weaknesses in security and safety plans. The goal should be to minimize those gaps and weaknesses. When doing this, it is critical to ensure the culture of the school community is not compromised. Parents want their children to attend a school that is open and inviting, not one that leaves them feeling like they are entering a prison. It is important to acknowledge that some risk factors can only be reduced and not fully eliminated.  Districts should consider weighing the risks identified in an assessment against the following criteria when creating a plan to address them:

  1. Operational Necessity
    • Weigh each safety and security risk against its impact to your standard daily operations.
    • Consider how the desired changes would impact the needs and experience of your students, families, and community.
  2. Culture
    • Evaluate the desired changes against any impact to culture, both short- and long-term impact.
    • Remember “convenience” for staff and visitors is not as high of a priority as safety for all.
    • Seek the input of stakeholders such as staff, parents, and students.
  3. Budget
    • Delineate budgetary restrictions according to staffing, equipment, installation, training, and implementation.
    • Prioritize the measures needed to protect human life over the pressure to make other educational purchases.
    • Determine how long-term sustainability will impact purchasing decisions.
  4. Resources
    • Determine if the district has the expertise to fix these issues or whether outsourcing is needed.

4. Focusing solely on physical security

Safety and security is a layered process.   When an incident receiving national attention occurs in a school, previously non-existent layers are implemented in reaction to the incident. These layers may include physical security, planning, training, supplies, and recovery efforts.  One recurring issue revealed across many school security assessments is that districts commonly allocate significant resources addressing only physical security. This includes the purchase and installation of security items, such as cameras, which do not prevent nor assist in responding to a threat.  For example, security cameras provide the greatest value when they are monitored in real time. Security cameras that are not monitored, and are used only for video evidentiary purposes, provide minimal impact on security. It is recommended that schools ensure they have created multiple layers in safety and security programs, as opposed to relying on a singular focus. The following guidelines will help determine which physical security elements have the greatest impact:

  1. Determine if threats are internal, external, or a mixture of each. External security features have little impact on internal threats.
  2. Make selections based on the greatest impact to safety. For example, cameras may not be as impactful as an alert system.
  3. Develop a process for any physical security. If you have a secure entrance vestibule, have a process for its use.

5. Incomplete planning: the “one size fits all” approach

The drafting and training of emergency procedures requires extensive experience and expertise. Many districts do not have this expertise in house, so they utilize internal resources that are ill equipped to take on this task. Emergency plans should be written by experienced security experts and should be customized to the location for which they are written. Emergencies and critical incidents are rapidly evolving situations. Keep plans concept based as opposed to a series of hard to follow steps. Consider using primary protocols as the basis for your plan and referring to those within each individual emergency. The following information should be included as custom elements in emergency plans:

  1. Command and Control – Determine who is in control and how communication will be accomplished.
  2. Reunification Sites – Select specific locations in proximity to individual buildings for gathering following an evacuation.
  3. Notifications and Alerts – Determine how alerting staff, students, and families will be accomplished.

6. Failure to train

The Navy Seals have an expression: “In moments of stress, human beings don’t rise to the occasion but instead sink to the level of their training.” The biggest mistake schools make is failing to provide regular opportunities for training on emergency response. In an emergency, most individuals will not take the time to find the emergency plan and read it. They will either respond with hardwired responses, (Fight, Flight, Freeze) or they will respond to the extent they have been trained. School administrators should consider responsible and reasonable multi-hazard training. While active shooter training has been prioritized in recent years, it is more beneficial to train staff on concepts that apply to a variety of emergencies in addition to active shooter response. Be cautious of designating all training time to a singular type of emergency. Training should incorporate best practice, be engaging, and conducted on a recurring and frequent basis. Training is perishable, meaning if staff trains on something only once and never revisits those concepts, individuals will largely forget them.  We recommend the following regarding training:

 

  1. Training should be multi-hazard, not limited to only active shooter response. It should include primary response protocols, the physiology of response and reaction, and decision-making processes.
  2. Training should be given to all school personnel, not just certified or administrative staff. Online training options make training more accessible to accommodate support staff schedules.
  3. Training should be customized to a campus and its procedures. Training should always be aligned with the outcome of an assessment. A security consultant who does not know a building’s operations or facilities lacks insight needed to advise personnel how to respond to an emergency in that environment.
  4. Training is perishable and should be conducted, refreshed, and revisited routinely.

, ,

Strategies for Staying Safe at Concerts and Festivals

The tragic death of 10 people, including a nine-year-old boy, at the Astroworld festival in Houston, Texas was unfortunately part of a decades-long line of terrible incidents that have occurred in and around music festivals and concerts. Although details of what happened at this event are still under investigation, much of the reporting around this incident, as well as early public comments by public safety officials, indicates that most of the deaths and injuries were caused by surging crowds during a performance by rap artist Travis Scott.

Sadly, this is not the first time something like this has occurred. The following are just some of the infamous examples in which crowd surges resulted in deaths and injuries at concerts and music festivals:

  • In 1979, 11 people died because of a stampede that occurred when the doors opened to the Riverfront Coliseum in Cincinnati, Ohio as concertgoers rushed for the best position to view a performance by the rock band The Who
  • In 2000, nine people were killed as a result of a crowd surge that occurred at the Roskilde Festival in in Denmark at the beginning of a performance by the rock band Pearl Jam
  • In 2010, 21 people were killed during a stampede that occurred in a tunnel that was used for both egress and ingress to an electronic dance music festival in Germany

Investigations into these and similar incidents revealed that the most common contributors to the tragic outcomes were overcrowding, insufficient security, inadequate crowd control resources, and faulty event planning.

Stampedes and crowd surges have not been the only cause of mass casualty at concerts or festivals. Over the past decade we have seen concerts and music festivals become the sites of significant acts of targeted violence. A few of the most devastating ones include the following:

  • In 2015, three terrorists, armed with assault rifles and wearing explosive vests, stormed the Bataclan theatre in Paris, France as part of a multi-pronged coordinated terrorist attack during a concert by the American band, Eagles of Death Metal. Ninety people were killed and hundreds of others were wounded
  • In 2017, a suicide bomber detonated an improvised explosive devise killing 22 people outside the Manchester Arena in Manchester, England as they were exiting a concert by pop singer Ariana Grande
  • In 2017, a mass shooting occurred at the Route 91 Harvest music festival in Las Vegas. Nevada. A lone gunmen fired at the audience members from his hotel suite located in the Mandalay Bay Hotel during a performance by country singer Jason Aldean. This attack took the life of 60 people and left hundreds more wounded. To date, this the deadliest mass shooting event in the history of the United States

Accidents at concerts and festivals have also resulted in a significant number of injuries and fatalities. Two of the most notable examples include the following:

  • In 2003, the setting off of pyrotechnics inside The Station nightclub, located in West Warwick, Rhode Island during a performance by the rock band Great White, started a fire which quickly engulfed the entire facility. The fire resulted in 100 fatalities and 230 injuries. Although there were four exits in the nightclub, most of the casualties occurred due to people becoming trapped in a narrow hallway leading to the main exit
  • In 2011, high winds collapsed the stage scaffolding prior to a performance of the country band Sugarland at the Indiana State Fair. Seven people were killed another 53 were injured

By highlighting these awful events, we are not trying to suggest that you or your children should stop attending live-music performances. Fatalities occurring at concerts or music festivals are, statistically speaking, very rare occurrences, and concerts and festivals can be incredibly enjoyable, entertaining, and, in some cases, even inspirational experiences.

We do think it is important to note that the risk of you or a loved one experiencing personal harm can become elevated by attending a concert or music festival. Fortunately, we believe there are three simple things you or your loved ones can do to reduce that risk and minimize the vulnerabilities that in-person attendance can create.

  • Do your research – Take some time to do some open-source research related to the venue, the promoters, the producers, and, most importantly, the performers. Do they have a proven record of successfully executing these events, or have they been associated with safety and security issues in the past? Travis Scott had been arrested twice before the Astroworld festival for inciting crowds to rush the stage during his performances
  • Develop a plan – When you get to the venue, familiarize yourself with your surroundings. The most important thing you can do is identify ways you can exit the venue if you need to. It is important to remember that the way you came in may not be the best way for you to leave. If possible, identify multiple egress routes. If you’re with a group, identify a reunification meeting location if you get separated. The festival grounds of Astroworld were littered with cell phones following the crowd surge. You can not assume that texting, calling, or email capabilities will be available to you
  • Don’t lose your situational awareness – Understandably, most of your focus will be on the show you are there to experience. Turned down house lighting, loud music, and dynamic stage effects are all designed to direct and keep your attention on the performers. They also can diminish your situational awareness. When opportunities present themselves, such as prior to a performance beginning, intermissions, and breaks in between acts, take a few minutes to do a quick reassessment of not only where you are but also what is going on around you

If you are interested in learning more about these and other strategies that can help keep you and your family members safe when attending large public gatherings, such as concerts or music festivals, please contact us at www.secured.com.

, ,

DON’T BE SCARED, BE PREPARED | Halloween Safety Tips

From carving pumpkins to haunted houses and finding the coveted full-size candy bar during trick-or-treating, the festivities around Halloween are about making memories, but here at SEC, we also want you to be safe.

On average, children are twice as likely to be hit by a car and killed on Halloween than on any other day of the year. But Halloween can be enjoyed safely for all parties involved if you pay attention and plan ahead.

  • Costumes
    • With the sun setting earlier and earlier this fall, it’s time to get creative with some Halloween costumes that will stand out in the dark. Bright colors and adding reflective tape can help you spot your child outdoors.
    • If your kids are not fully vaccinated and participating in an indoor event, encourage them to make masks a part of their costume (like a superhero)! But be aware that eye masks can obstruct a child’s vision while walking.
    • Costume sizing matters! Make sure you have a correct fit to prevent trips and falls.
  • Trick-or-Treating
    • While out and about in the neighborhood, tell your children not to accept nor eat anything that isn’t commercially wrapped.
    • Always accompany young children on their neighborhood rounds and make sure to only go to homes with a porch light on. If older children are going alone, make sure you have a plan for an acceptable route and return time.
    • When handing out candy, make sure you have a cleared walkway, working outdoor lights, and restrain pets that might be inside.
    • Be aware of cars and always use sidewalks, paths, and crosswalks.

We hope you have a faBOOlous and safe Halloween!

, ,

The Importance of School Threat Assessment Teams

In recent weeks, two very serious and disturbing plots to commit a mass shooting at school were disrupted. Two middle schoolers in Lee County, Florida were arrested for conspiracy to commit a mass shooting. Four high school students were arrested for conspiring to commit a mass casualty attack which was scheduled to occur on the 25th anniversary of the Columbine massacre. Although incredibly troubling, thankfully these plots were identified, and law enforcement agencies were able to prevent them from being put into action.

Physical and technical security features, emergency policies and procedures, and safety and security training are all critical elements needed to create safe and secure environment for your school. At SEC, we believe, though, one of the best ways schools can help prevent a targeted act of violence from occurring is to have in place a well-trained and well-structured threat assessment team. Having the ability to identify, assess, intervene, manage, and monitor the threats to your school is essential.

Since the late 1990’s, the Secret Service’s Nation Threat Assessment Center (NTAC) has been researching targeted acts of violence in schools. One of the significant findings coming from this research is that the large majority of the individuals who committed or attempted to commit these attacks did not just “snap.”  More commonly, they walked a path from having the idea to committing the act that took days, weeks, or even years to complete. While on this path, most exhibited identifiable behaviors of concern that were observable to at least one person. In many cases, they were observable to multiple people. If behaviors of concern can be identified and assessed, and if intervention strategies can be put in place, it can greatly reduce the likelihood of future students reaching the end of their path.  That is what an effective threat assessment team can do.

In 2018, NTAC published Enhancing school safety using a threat assessment model. An operational guide for preventing targeted school violence. This comprehensive resource provides detailed guidance on strategies schools can follow to create and sustain teams that will allow them to be able to assess threats related to their students, staff, and facility. The guide is broken up into the following eight steps:

  1. Establish a multidisciplinary threat assessment team
  2. Define prohibited and concerning behaviors
  3. Create a central reporting mechanism
  4. Determine the threshold for law enforcement intervention
  5. Establish assessment procedures
  6. Develop risk management options
  7. Create and promote safe school climates
  8. Conduct training for all stakeholders

If you are an administrator who is interested in creating or updating your threat assessment procedures, I encourage you to review this guide and visit the United States Secret Service website at www.secretservice.gov to access additional reports and guides NTAC has produced relating to targeted violence in schools. Additionally, if we, at SEC, can be of any assistance related to your school safety and security needs, please feel free to contact us at www.secureed.com.

, ,

Crossing the Finish Line | Threat Landscape

Don’t view the completion of your security upgrade project as crossing the finish line.

Over the past few weeks, we have discussed some of the common missteps we see schools make when undertaking significant security upgrade projects. In our first post on this topic, we discussed our recommendation that schools avoid identifying security solutions before they have identified their security challenges. In the following post, we recommended that schools avoid employing a “one size fits all” approach to their security solutions. Unique challenges require unique solutions.

As we end this series of posts, our final guidance is this: Avoid viewing the completion of your security upgrade project as any type of finish line. Instead, we recommend you view the completion of your security upgrade project as a starting off point.

Although completing these projects are significant milestones, we recommend administrators immediately transition to identifying the additional follow-up actions that need to be taken to ensure your school receives the full benefit from these upgrades. We recommend asking yourself the following questions to help identity what those follow-up actions might be:

  • Are there any adjustments to operating or emergency procedures that need to be made?
  • Has an auditing and maintenance schedule been established for any new technology?
  • Is there any training that needs to be conducted for staff or students as a result of this project?

Unfortunately, we too often see excellent technical or physical design features being introduced into schools without them being aligned with effective policy and procedures or supported by training.  

Where we see this occur most commonly is in schools that have attempted to create secure entryways. 

Often, we will find that the entryways have all the necessary technical and physical components to allow for the effective, safe vetting of visitors into the school. But in many cases, all those components, specifically the intercom feature, are not being routinely utilized. As a result, all the resources that were expended to create a safe entryway went to creating an expensive doorbell. Without training on how to use the new feature or make changes to your operational procedures, you risk losing the benefit of that specific upgrade.  

The introduction of the “stuff” that comes along with security upgrade projects is not the endgame. 

The endgame only comes when the “stuff’ is paired with policy and procedures and training.

As always, safety is our top priority. If you would like more information, please reach out to us at info@secureed.com

, ,

Returning to School Safely | Threat Landscape

SEC has had the privilege of working with hundreds of schools throughout the country to enhance their prevention and readiness strategies related to school safety and security. Some of the opportunities we find the most satisfying are ones we are allowed to be involved from the very beginning when a school is starting the process of developing and executing a plan associated with a significant security upgrade project. When these opportunities present themselves, one of the first things we recommend to our clients is they take the time to make sure they have a very clear understanding of their threat landscape, the risk priorities and tolerances, and their current vulnerability exposures.

At SEC, when we think about threats from a physical security perspective, we focus on the human, natural, or mechanical/structural things that have the potential to cause us harm.

  • Human – Assault, Robbery
  • Natural – Hurricane, Tornado
  • Mechanical/Structural – Gas Leak, Building Collapse
  • When we think about risk, we are assessing the likelihood of something bad occurring and the potential impact if it did occur. For example, active shooter events in schools are, statistically speaking, relatively rare occurrences, but we also know that when they do occur, they can be incredibly devasting.

    It is not only important to examine our clients’ risk profile, but also their risk tolerances as well. Many factors can impact risk tolerance, but the most common factors are budget, culture, and convenience. If a recommended security solution is too expensive, too cumbersome, or would result in a significant change to the school’s environment or operations, it is likely that solution will not be adopted or will be adopted in a way that results in the client not receiving the maximum benefit from the solution.

    Vulnerabilities are the gaps, weaknesses, or soft spots that can allow a threat to cause harm if it arises.

    These can be identified by doing a granular assessment of the school’s existing physical and technical design features and a thorough review of existing operating and emergency policy procedures.

    By taking the time to get a better understanding of your school’s unique threat landscape, risk profile, and vulnerability exposures, you will be ensuring that the decisions you make related to your safety and security upgrades will be both well informed and well prioritized.

    As always, safety is our top priority. If you would like more information, please reach out to us at info@secureed.com.

    , ,

    Returning to School Safely

    At SEC, we have been gratified to see so many of our educational partners be able to begin the process of returning to in-person instruction. Speaking with several of our clients, we have learned that they have recently had the good fortune to access additional financial resources through grants, bonds, and other mechanisms, allowing them to upgrade their safety and security-related assets.

    Many of these clients have expressed some uncertainty about the best way to make decisions on how to get the most value out of these resources and how to prioritize the order in which these safety and security upgrade projects are initiated. 

    One of the most common mistakes we see is decision-makers focusing on the safety and security solutions without first genuinely understanding their safety and security challenges. We often use the comparison of going to the pharmacist to get a prescription filled without having visited a doctor to see what your diagnosis is.

    Therefore, over the next several weeks, we will be guiding you on how to maximize the benefits of these additional resources and how to maintain the value of these other resources in the months and years to come. In doing so, we will focus on the following three areas:

    1. Understanding the differences between threat, vulnerability, and risk
      Although oftentimes used interchangeably, these three elements are unique. As a result, when identifying and addressing your safety and security needs, it is critically important to gain a clear understanding of your unique threat landscape, risk priorities and tolerances, and vulnerability exposures.
    2. Avoiding the pitfalls of taking a “cookie-cutter” or “one size fits all” approach
      The location of your school, the size of your school, and the age of your students are just some of the many factors that can contribute to your school’s unique threat, risk, and vulnerability profile. Because your profile is unique, common sense dictates that the solutions related to your profile should also be unique.
    3. Installation and initial implementation are NOT the finish line
      When a new safety and security resource is introduced into your school, staff members who will have a role in utilizing that resource must be properly trained on how to do so. Furthermore, suppose the introduction of the resource results in a need to develop new or update existing emergency procedures or operating policies. In that case, it is recommended this is completed prior to installation.

    We’re excited that the new school year is here, and that many institutions are returning to in-person learning. With that excitement comes some caution, as the new academic year can bring with it some new safety and security challenges. Please know that we are a resource that you can use to help with these challenges.

    As always, safety is our top priority. If you would like more information, please reach out to us at info@secureed.com.

    , ,

    THE KEY CONCEPTS OF CRITICAL INCIDENT RESPONSE: Developing Response Options

    In our most recent posts over the past few weeks, we have gone into additional detail relating to some of the fundamental concepts we cover during our Critical Incident Response Training (CIRT) course. So far, we have stressed the importance of obtaining both environmental awareness and situational awareness when in new and crowded places. The final fundamental concept we will be discussing is the importance of developing response options while you are in those environments.

    How do you develop effective response options? Very simply, it is taking that information you gathered during your initial environmental assessment and continue to monitor through your situational awareness efforts to answer the following question: “If this happened, what would I do”?

    We encourage you to run through some simple scenarios when asking yourself the “what would I do” questions. For example:

    • Where would I go If I needed to leave here in a hurry?
    • What could I grab if I needed to defend myself?
    • What is the best and closest location if I needed to find shelter?
    • What are the materials I could use to either cover or conceal myself?

    When answering these questions, we want you to visualize yourself carrying out the movements associated with each answer. For example, picture yourself moving to the nearest exit, then imagine yourself moving to a secondary exit. By doing this, you will not only have reinforced your knowledge of the location of these exits, but you will have also developed the appropriate response option if one of these two exits is inaccessible to you.

    This practice is commonly referred to as mental scripting. As we mentioned in one of the previous posts on this topic, critical thinking and decision-making can become very challenging during an extreme emergency. That is why, whenever possible, it is important to think and make decisions before an incident occurs. By visualizing yourself performing those actions associated with the answers to your “what if” questions, you will be providing your brain with a script that can be more easily accessed during the actual emergency.

    As we close out this topic, it is essential to remember that extensive training and years of experience are not the only factors that can successfully enhance your ability to navigate a critical incident. What we believe is equally, if not more, important is maintaining motivation to effectively respond and developing consistently good habits that will allow you to do so. If you believe it is possible, maybe not likely — but possible, to be exposed to a critical incident, you will probably be able to retain your motivation to stay prepared. This motivation will allow you to consistently practice good habits associated with the acquisition and maintenance of environmental and situational awareness and the development of effective response strategies.

    Running through test scenarios and asking yourself, “If this happened, what would I do?” is an excellent habit to get into, as this can be crucial in formulating a response to a critical incident.

    As always, safety is our top priority. If you would like more information, please reach out to us at info@secureed.com.