Take DHS’ K-12 School Security Survey to See if Your Plan is Up to Snuff

A survey from the Department of Homeland Security helps schools evaluate seven aspects of their security and gives helpful suggestions on ways to improve.

Take DHS’ K-12 School Security Survey to See if Your Plan is Up to Snuff

Best practices for safety and security remain at the forefront of discussions surrounding K-12 schools. While nearly all involved can agree the protection and well-being of students is top priority, nearly all involved can also agree the continuously moving parts that make up school security can be overwhelming.

That is why the Department of Homeland Security put all those moving parts into one place: the 2018 K-12 School Security Survey.

The survey was created in conjunction with the department’s second edition guide called “K-12 School Security: A Guide for Preventing and Protecting against Gun Violence”.

While the guide focuses on preventing gun violence in K-12 schools, much of it can be applied as general best practices for school security in higher education institutions or pre-K schools as well.

In addition to the survey, the guide includes a PDF with general security best practices in narrative form.

“Together, these documents outline action-oriented security practices and options for consideration based on the results of the individual school’s responses to the survey,” according to Homeland Security’s website.

The K-12 school security survey, which is Excel-based and can be filled out here, is broken down into seven different aspects of school security:

  • Security/Emergency Management
  • Security Force
  • Entry Control
  • Fencing and Gates
  • Parking and Barriers
  • Building Envelope
  • CCV – VSS

Each question has either three or five answers and the responder is asked to select the answer that most accurately represents their school.

The survey is reactive; each answer is scored and specific recommendations for improvements are given based on the response.

Here are a few examples from the survey, which include the question and a recommended course of action based on the answer.

Example 1

  • Question: Does the school have a security manager or security department?
  • Answer: The school district has a security manager who also performs other functions in addition to security management.
  • Recommendation: Relieve the manager of other responsibilities unrelated to school safety and security.

Example 2

  • Question: Can classroom doors remain locked if necessary, for example, during an active-shooter incident?
  • Answer: All classrooms have door locks, but all or some must be locked from the outside. This setup could require individuals to move into a danger zone in order to lock a door.
  • Recommendation: Replace locks so doors can be secured from inside the classroom. Doors should lock automatically or have a simple locking mechanism, such as a button to push in. Consider the effects on ingress and egress by people with disabilities prior to selecting new locks.

Example 3

  • Question: Is the school’s camera system monitored?
  • Answer: Trained, dedicated staff members monitor the CCV/VSS and are not overwhelmed by too many screens (typically eight or less). No single person monitors the camera system for an extended period of time (more than 15 minutes).
  • Recommendation: Explore the feasibility of procuring a software program that aids in the determination of suspicious activity.

Complete the full survey here! It works best on a computer running Windows 7 or later and Excel 2013 or later.

About the Author


Amy Rock is Campus Safety's senior editor. She graduated from UMass Amherst with a Bachelor’s Degree in Communications and a minor in Education.

She has worked in the publishing industry since 2011, in both events and digital marketing.

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Campus Safety magazine is another great resource for public safety, security and emergency management professionals. It covers all aspects of campus safety, including access control, video surveillance, mass notification and security staff practices. Whether you work in K-12, higher ed, a hospital or corporation, Campus Safety magazine is here to help you do your job better!

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