The topic of school security has always been an important discussion, but following the shooting in Newtown, Conn., in December the subject is more prevalent than ever before. In the short time since the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School, there have several would-be copycats at K-12 schools, colleges and universities. The latest threat came this week at the University of Central Florida where a student planned to attack a number of students in his residence hall using guns and explosives. Thankfully, the university’s police department was able to thwart that plot.
These types of incidents have prompted many installing security contractors to take action to help schools prepare for an active shooter/bomber event on campus (for more information, see the “Recommended for You” section at end of this blog). One firm that has taken action is Dayton, Ohio-based Shiver Security Systems dba Sonitrol of SW Ohio.
Founded in 1970, Shiver Security provides more than 6,000 customers in southwestern Ohio and northern Kentucky with integrated security solutions, access control, CCTV and fire protection. With an 80% commercial and 20% residential split, the Department of Defense (DoD)-approved company, which has its own UL-Listed central station, has many customers in the education market. On March 13, the firm hosted a School Safety Seminar at the Savannah Center in West Chester, Ohio, to provide school administrators with solutions to protect students and staff.
In this Q&A, Shiver Security Sales & Marketing Coordinator Kim Rodkey discusses how electronic security integrators nationwide can plan a similar program for their education market clients.
Why did Shiver Security organize this event?
We had performed a school safety seminar back in 2007 and our customers requested that we host another seminar. We were planning to do this in August, but when Sandy Hook happened, we felt the urgency to move up the date.
Whom did you invite?
This is an educational seminar, so we thought it would be best to invite school administratiors, security directors and SEP officers. Not only did we invite our customers, but we also thought that those that are not our customers could also benefit from this type of event. We invited a lot of outside K-12 schools and daycares. It was for both public and private schools, and we had a couple of college and university administrators attend. Churches now have schools built in or daycares, so we thought it was important to include them as well. We also invited local police departments since we have a strong relationship with them.
How did you choose the speakers for the seminar?
We wanted this to be an interactive discussion, and we wanted people to be able to share best practices because each school is unique, so each of their plans is going to be a little bit different. You don’t want to put your audience to sleep. You want to make sure the speaker engages the audience, keeps them interested, and presents information relevant to your participants.
We had national safety expert Wolfgang Halbig as one of our speakers. He had attended one of our previous school seminars, and he did a really dynamic presentation that talked about active shooters, bullying and all the different types of crime that can occur within a school environment. We also had speakers from the Cincinnati Police Department District 4 and representatives from the Hamilton County Prosecutors office. Because attendees are going to ask a lot of questions, I highly recommend inviting a police district that has a good rapport with your company.
What were the biggest concerns that attendees had about security on campus?
How to prepare for an active shooter and how to practice the drills.
What tips were offered?
Well, schools should have a security plan and a safety plan because there is a big difference between the two, although they work hand-in-hand. The security plan covers things like fire alarms, intrusion, access control, etc. But let’s say you do have an active shooter or active bomber. We talked about how students or staff can throw books at the intruder, as well as lockdown policies.
Some police departments require classrooms to cover the windows, so we taught attendees to cut sheets of wax paper the size of the windows and tape that up. Another challenge is thinking of the special needs children. If they’re in a wheelchair, you’ve got to think of different plans.
We also had handouts and put the presentations on a flash drive so attendees could take the information with them.
What other advice would you give to installing security contractors planning similar seminars?
A successful event like this needs about three months of planning. Make sure you have a centralized location that everyone can get to, especially if you have clients in multiple counties. Also, work with your vendor partners to see if they can partner with you on the event.
Research is also important; the more people you to do research, the better or maybe have just one person dedicated to looking up school addresses and phone numbers. Schedule some meetings with schools to see what type of topics they would be interested in discussing. I also worked with my local chamber of commerce, the Better Business Bureau, news and radio stations to advertise the event. Use any contacts you have to get the word out.
The time and effort put into the seminar is well worth it. Hopefully the knowledge learned at our seminar can keep another tragedy from happening or at least prevent the severity of the tragedy.
Ashley Willis | Associate Editor
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