Focusing Exclusively on Active Shooters Could Cost You

Published: June 7, 2016

There’s possibly no better way to improve your campus’ emergency preparedness than to use realistic scenarios to test how your staff, teachers, faculty and administrators will respond. And despite popular believe, Safe Havens International’s Chris Dorn believes that U.S. K-12 schools’ ability to respond to acts of terrorism has degraded over the past few years due to them focusing too much on active shooters.

RELATED: How to Use Scenarios in Training to Improve Campus Safety and Security

Chris and Michael Dorn will be presenting a School Emergency Preparedness Workshop at the Campus Safety Conference East, which will take place in Washington, D.C., July 25-26.

Having built what is now the largest school safety center in the world, Safe Havens International, the Dorns head up a non-profit school safety center with 52 analysts specializing in various subject matter areas. Since the center’s inception, Safe Havens analysts have helped conduct school security and emergency preparedness assessments for more than 6,000 K-12 schools in the U.S. and abroad.

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In this Q&A, Chris Dorn discusses the various topics that will be covered during the workshop, the value of scenario-based planning and the role that modern communication methods like social media are playing in campus safety.

Campus Safety:  Where do K-12 schools typically fall short when it comes to campus safety?

  Schools often focus too much on high profile threats rather than the risks that are more likely to result in an emergency. Right now,  for example, many of them are focused on active shooters when there are so many other elements to consider. Outside doors are left propped open, training falls by the wayside once immediate threats fade away, and social media becomes a conduit for a growing number of new and undetected threats. These are all difficult topics for schools to wrap their arms around.

Campus Safety:
How does social media play into the equation?

Dorn:  Social media is a common thread across many of the workshop topics. It’s a whole new avenue that increases the speed at which everything takes place. For example, it’s one of the ways that we receive threats in today’s tech-oriented society. At the same time, social media is now an integral part of a school’s voice to the public during an emergency. Due to these shifts, schools need to be able to manage the social aspect of their communications in a way that would have traditionally been managed by a public information officer.

Campus Safety:  Are schools making progress with their campus safety goals?

Dorn:  I think most still underestimate the impact that even the smallest event can have on their schools. I’ve seen instances where schools have had to deal with earthquakes or manage angry visitors on campus, and they still don’t really know how to respond effectively to these potential problems. They just kind of pass it off and avoid responding to it, when in fact one armed, irate visitor in the front office can potentially turn into a major threat if left unchecked.

Campus Safety: How can schools do a better job in this area?

Dorn:  In our sessions, we focus on scenario-based training and evaluation. When we go into a school and do an assessment, we’ll look at physical safety, we look at the plans, and we also sit down with a staff member one-on-one and show them a video scenario of a situation that could happen in a school. After giving him or her some time to respond, we assess that response, and look for ways to improve the school plans and to improve the school environment through those responses. We see this exercise as a particularly effective way to train individuals on how to effectively identify and respond to potential and immediate threats on campus.

The third annual Campus Safety Conferences are education and training events for anyone who has a stake in ensuring the public safety and security of our nation’s schools and universities. Taking place in Washington, D.C., July 25-26 and Long Beach, Calif., Aug. 9-10, the conferences provide full-day training workshops, a campus police chief and a K-12 safety panel, dozens of conference sessions, and more than 35 companies showcasing their products, services, and technologies.

To register for the Campus Safety Conferences, visit Chris Dorn and Michael Dorn will be speaking at CSC East, K-12 Track, on July 25.

Photo: Thinkstock

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Strategy & Planning Series
Strategy & Planning Series
Strategy & Planning Series
Strategy & Planning Series
Strategy & Planning Series