Electronic Security Elevates Its Education Market Standards

Find out why security dealers and integrators are key to the success of Partner Alliance for Safer Schools (PASS).

Two years gone by and the group of industry stakeholders behind the Partner Alliance for Safer Schools (PASS) are eager to take the results of their painstaking studies from the backroom to the classroom for some show and tell.

Spurred into action to fill the critical need for a standardized means of assessing school security requirements, the Security Industry Association (SIA) launched a working group in 2013 that would aim to identify ways to enhance school security at K-12 campuses. The following year SIA joined with the National Systems Contractors Association (NSCA) to turn that group into a more robust organization, aligning members of the security industry with school administrators and law enforcement to advance a coordinated, holistic approach to protecting students and staff.

The resulting collaboration came to operate under the PASS banner. The goal was to become an entity that would help schools and their integrator partners apply the most appropriate and effective security technologies. Also key was helping schools with risk assessment and mitigation in order to inform and expedite decision-making when determining the appropriate level of security.

Two requisites were foremost in producing standardized guidelines: remain vendor agnostic and discuss only processes and technologies; secondly, the realization there is no one-size-fits-all solution. PASS – which includes about 25 core members led by a five-member steering committee – officially unveiled its guidelines and a security assessment tool at ISC West in April.

SSI interviewed members of the PASS steering committee and other industry stakeholders to find out more about their vision for enhancing security and life safety at K-12 schools and the steep challenges involved. Read on to learn why PASS members concluded a tiered approach was necessary to implementing standardized guidelines, as well as the vital role installing security contractors will have to play if the approach is to be widely adopted.

Taking a Tiered Approach to Risk Mitigation

The tiered safety technology standards created by PASS were, in large part, an answer to the many calls for improved K-12 security measures following the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. No official standard for school security technology existed heretofore, such as there is for fire protection. During the ISC West unveiling, Ron Hawkins, SIA manager of special projects and partnerships, talked about facets of the PASS guidelines.

“If a school administrator were responsible for protecting a school from fire, but had no codes to rely upon, how would they know where to put sprinklers? How would they know where to put alarms? How would they know what processes to use?” Hawkins said. “And they are responsible for implementing school security but they do lack that official guidance. So we are trying to move into that direction and to give them a toolkit they could use.”

The guidelines identified in the document are not intended to provide solutions for every risk threat. PASS envisions administrators and public safety officials working collaboratively, using the guide as a basis to evaluate local needs and available funding to develop a risk mitigation strategy unique to each school.

With budget constraints in mind, funding may force schools to phase in their solutions over several years. The tiered approach detailed in the guide can be used to gauge and determine these phased goals, explains PASS Vice Chairman Jim Crumbley, owner of Risk Response Team of Atlanta.

“Systems are not designed in a vacuum. What works in Arlington, Va., may not work in Albuquerque, N.M., Rome, Ga.,” Crumbley says. “Needs, risks and other factors are all unique. We encourage administrators to assess their individual risks and develop a plan that uses the tier continuum as a guide.”

Although mitigating the threat of an active shooter is addressed in the guidelines, PASS members delved deeply into helping schools contend with more commonplace security issues. Recommendations describe solutions for various physical and technological “layers” in a school, covering classrooms, facility exteriors, perimeters, visitor control, video surveillance, emergency notification and others.

Within each layer, the recommendations are divided into four tiers. Tier 1 reflects minimal funding and offers basic standards for procedure implementation, identifying improvements and technology implementation. Tier 2 requires security staff. It offers standards for adding barriers, enhancing processes and establishing realistic security goals. Tier 3 offers procedures and technologies to form an integrated approach to a safer school, requires yearly spending and plans for continual improvements. It identifies prevention opportunities and works toward a culture change through processes and technologies. In Tier 4, security becomes a “way of life” and processes are automatic. It acknowledges that threats still exist but it is set up to continue to improve processes and technologies.

“The hardest part of a big job is getting started, so PASS is doing a good thing in providing structure,” says Mike MacLeod, president of Status Solutions, a provider of situational awareness technologies. “We definitely need best practices and opportunities to share information, thinking more holistically about risk management and involving different stakeholders with different expertise.”

About the Author

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Although Bosch’s name is quite familiar to those in the security industry, his previous experience has been in daily newspaper journalism. Prior to joining SECURITY SALES & INTEGRATION in 2006, he spent 15 years with the Los Angeles Times, where he performed a wide assortment of editorial responsibilities, including feature and metro department assignments as well as content producing for latimes.com. Bosch is a graduate of California State University, Fresno with a degree in Mass Communication & Journalism. In 2007, he successfully completed the National Burglar and Fire Alarm Association’s National Training School coursework to become a Certified Level I Alarm Technician.

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