Building Your Campus’ Security Muscle & Minds

Here’s how you can foster executive, community and security officer buy-in for your programs, as well as make your public safety training more effective.

When it comes to campus safety and security, nothing is more important that having well-trained employees and security officers. Training should include everything from first aid to the appropriate use of force and restraint; verbal de-escalation techniques to active shooter response; HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) compliance to infant abduction prevention.

Although a significant portion of respondents to last fall’s Campus Safety magazine survey said they provide training in key areas involving safety and security to their officers, there are still some significant gaps. Only 60% of respondents from educational institutions said their sworn officers are trained to use the National Incident Management System (NIMS). That percentage drops to 45% for non-sworn officers. Only 64% of hospital respondents said their public safety officers are trained to provide CPR/AED/first aid despite the fact that they work in an environment where there are ill and injured patients. University and school respondents also expressed concern with the level of preparedness for non-security personnel. More than half (55%) said they were somewhat unsatisfied or very unsatisfied with the amount of training their administrators, teachers, faculty and staff receive on safety and security.

Fortunately, there are plenty of training resources available. Some are free, such as FEMA’s online NIMS courses, which can be found at For institutions willing to pay a fee, there are plenty of vendors and consultants that provide courses catered to an institution’s specific needs.

Associations provide another option for training. For hospitals, the International Association for Healthcare Security & Safety (IAHSS) offers a healthcare-specific certification program for security officers that can help a medical center stay in compliance with HIPAA, CMS and Joint Commission regulations. IAHSS also offers Certified Healthcare Protection Administrator (CHPA) certification for supervisors and directors so they can demonstrate an acceptable level of knowledge regarding the management of a hospital security department.

Discuss ‘What-If’ Scenarios Carefully

Before a healthcare or educational organization can start training, however, its C-suite and top-level administrators must fully comprehend the value of public safety education. Overcoming the “it can’t happen here” mindset can be challenging, particularly when low-probability events are the topic of discussion.

According to G4S North America Training Institute Director of Field Training Service Carmen Murrell Randall, campus protection executives must be skilled in communicating to their superiors the value of training. She points out that although the chances of an incident like an infant abduction are extremely low, one incident is too many and can be catastrophic for a healthcare organization. Campus administrators and executives who understand this are more likely to embrace public safety training and security improvements in general.

Randall says that when communicating with the C-suite and top-level administration, G4S raises “what-if” scenarios. “We say, ‘They might not have happened in your facility, but there is the possibility of them happening. If they do and your personnel were not trained, what would your response be to the media?'”

Although it is important to discuss the risks associated with a lack of training, John Pack, G4S’ director of higher education security, warns against threat-centered communications or taking the “Doctor Doom” approach.

“We need to understand how the C-suite thinks and communicates, speaking their language to get the support we need,” he says. “Colleges, K-12 schools and hospitals are all value driven and increasingly outcome oriented. Ask senior leadership, ‘Following an emergency, how do we want students and parents to describe our response?’ Build on consensus around the end result and work backwards to identify training and resources that are needed.”

He also recommends making every request and proposal measurable to demonstrate return on investment (ROI).

“Benchmarking against similar institutions in your area is essential,” he adds. “Effective training provides daily returns, even if the ‘big one’ doesn’t happen.”

Pack also suggests providing top administrators with regular updates so you can share anecdotes that demonstrate your department’s effectiveness.

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About the Author

robin hattersley headshot

Robin has been covering the security and campus law enforcement industries since 1998 and is a specialist in school, university and hospital security, public safety and emergency management, as well as emerging technologies and systems integration. She joined CS in 2005 and has authored award-winning editorial on campus law enforcement and security funding, officer recruitment and retention, access control, IP video, network integration, event management, crime trends, the Clery Act, Title IX compliance, sexual assault, dating abuse, emergency communications, incident management software and more. Robin has been featured on national and local media outlets and was formerly associate editor for the trade publication Security Sales & Integration. She obtained her undergraduate degree in history from California State University, Long Beach.

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