Many schools across the country have adopted zero tolerance policies when it comes to weapons on campus, drugs on campus, knives on campus, fighting on campus, or bullying on campus.
Are these policies working? A recent article in the New York Times says “no”, these policies are not working.
Zero tolerance policies mean that students are either suspended or expelled for infractions. These policies tend to disproportionally affect black, Latino, and mentally disabled students. Furthermore, sending a student home from school does not necessarily imply that the student will go home or stay home – many students simply spend the school-free time on the streets, unsupervised, engaging in unlawful or destructive behavior. In fact, the New York Times article shows links between a rise in juvenile crime rate and suspension/expulsion rate. When suspension/expulsion rates are lowered, so are juvenile crime rates.
In terms of bullying, there is some evidence that a zero tolerance policy leads to a decrease in reporting of bullying incidents since reporting will most likely lead to a suspension. Suspension of a bully may remove the student from the situation, but it does not address the underlying issue of bullying.
There are strategies schools can take to address bullying that have proven to be more effective than a simple zero tolerance suspension policy. We’ve written a white paper on bullying where you can read about this in more depth.
At Invictus Consulting we are not opposed to zero tolerance policies in schools; we just want to make sure that school administrators have explored the options available to them.
Dissecting the various instances of mentally ill people with guns, people open carrying semiautomatic weapons, students with guns on college campuses, and convicted felons gaining access to guns, the New York Times article questioned the efficacy of gun control laws and background check laws. Noting that all states have their own laws and that online purchasing of guns is not regulated in the same way as in-store purchasing, the article helps further the national discussion about gun control and safety.
In one case featured in the article, an Ohio family was shot in their home by a neighbor. John Anderson, one of the victims, kept a firearm in his home for protection but did not use it, mostly likely because he didn’t have time to retrieve the weapon (the shooter barged in through the kitchen door while Mr. Anderson was putting groceries away). According the article, one third of Americans keep a firearm in their home for protection but 99 percent of crime victims do not use it.
Here at Invictus we do not want to make a political statement about gun laws, carry laws, or background check laws. We do, however, believe very strongly in prevention, preparation, and mitigation. Because gun control is state-specific, know your own state’s laws and abide by them. Make sure your family has an awareness about threatening individuals, and make sure your family has a plan for what to do if an active shooter is nearby (whether in your home, outside in public like a park, or in a public venue like a movie theatre).
Listen, we get that the possibility of an active shooter situation is scary to think about. We also get that the national dialogue about gun control is politically tempestuous. Should mentally unstable people or convicted felons have the right to purchase a firearm? Should people have the right to openly carry semiautomatic weapons at the mall? Should you have a loaded weapon on your bedside table to protect your family? Even at Invictus we have differing opinions about the answers to these questions. What we all agree on though is that knowledge, planning, and training are important steps in keeping you and your family safe.
In honor of Halloween, we’d like to talk about preparing for a zombie catastrophe.
Seriously, we think you should prepare for a zombie apocalypse.
What, exactly, would zombie apocalypse preparation look like?
getting updates via Twitter, Facebook, texts from the CDC and your local emergency services (e.g., sheriff’s office, fire and rescue)
having a “go bag” ready in your home / office
having a shelter-in-place plan for your family / business
having an evacuation plan for your family / business
having a supply of food, water, first aid supplies, batteries, flashlights, radios, important documents, medical supplies, pet supplies, extra cash, and copies of your keys at your home
Now, if you’ve been around this blog for any length of time, the points above should look familiar. We talk about this stuff all the time – you need to have a plan in place for emergencies; you need to have supplies in place in case of emergencies; you need to be aware of your surroundings and knowledgable about threats to mitigate the risks.
Preparing for a zombie apocalypse actually looks a lot like preparing for any serious emergency or threat. If you’re prepared for the zombie apocalypse, you’re pretty much prepared for any major emergency like a hurricane, tornado, active shooter, pandemic outbreak, nuclear blast, home fire, etc.
So please, prepare for the zombie apocalypse. You won’t regret it!
Many schools around the country have starting thinking about active shooters and putting together emergency plans on what to do in the event that an active shooter comes on campus. We applaud this and hope that more and more schools put a plan in place for the threat of an active shooter.
With that said, an active shooter isn’t the most likely threat to the safety of your students, faculty, and staff. Roughly a quarter of active shooter events in the 21st century have occurred at places of education (preK through college/university). While this is scary and startling for administrators, teachers, and parents, the fact is that there are numerous other threats that lurk in and around schools.
Do your faculty, staff, and students know what to do if there’s a bomb threat? What about a tornado? What if a child makes threats to other students or teachers? What if an irate parent comes on campus? What if a toxic chemical spills in the chemistry lab or the janitorial area?
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) considers education facilities (i.e., schools) as part of the government facilities sector of critical infrastructure in our country. As a critical infrastructure, it is vital to our nation’s security, economic vitality, and way of life, and it should be protected. The DHS, along with the Department of Education (Ed), the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Department of Justice (DOJ), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA) have created a Guide for Developing High-Quality School Emergency Operations Plans. They suggest including:
adversarial, incidental, and human-caused threats (e.g., gang violence, cyber attacks, fire)
Listen, active shooters are a real threat, and schools should prepare themselves. But everyday things that may seem like non-issues can easily turn into emergencies, and these mundane things should also be included in a well-rounded emergency plan.
As an Atlanta-based company, we take a special interest in Georgia laws. Recently our governor signed a bill that allows students to carry, possess, and use electroshock weapons (i.e., stun gun or taser) on college campuses effective July 1, 2016.
Some of the more salient points about electroshock weapons:
designed to incapacitate a person
designed to be non-lethal
high-voltage, low-current electrical discharge
stun guns administer an electric shock via direct contact with the body
tasers administer an electric shock via wires connected to projectiles (i.e., the user does not have to have direct physical contact with the target
newer models have an automatic stop (the current stops flowing after a number of seconds, usually 5)
repeated shock cycles can be administered by pulling the trigger repeatedly, thus allowing for a near-constant electrical discharge
Clearly there are both pros and cons when it comes to using electroshock weapons. Some Georgia college campus police have begun to offer training and educational sessions on the use of tasers, which we think is positive and responsible course of action.
School entrances are a critical location for security measures. A recent article by Campus Safety Magazine outlines 11 components of a safe school entrance. They included:
single point of entry
staff monitoring of arrival and dismissal
visitor management procedure
double entry system (e.g., vestibule)
electronic access control
video intercom for visitor screening
office panic button
We agree with all of those measures and would like to add a few other components that can improve the security of a school entrance.
Make sure your cameras point not only at the door / entrance itself, but also at the pathway from the parking lot to the door. If the camera only looks down at the door, the first time you have eyes on a bad guy is when he’s already at the door. Cameras that view the path to the door can give valuable extra time to observe the threat and prepare.
Make sure your front desk isn’t directly in the line of sight of the glass doors so that the bad guy at the door can’t see the person at the front desk. This can give valuable extra time for people inside the school to observe a threat and prepare before he enters the building.
Make sure your panic button is in a reasonable location. If the panic button is 4 feet up on a wall, the person hiding under their desk isn’t going to risk getting out from under the desk to hit to panic button. Place these in logical places and places where people would hide or evacuate.
Train your teachers and staff on what to do should a threat appear. If you don’t know what you’re going to do when a bad guy shows up, all these security measures are futile. Make sure your faculty and staff know exactly what to do if a threat appears on campus.
Guest post from Ray Salazar from our Business Continuity Department.
Today I want to talk about some recent lessons learned on the need for emergency and crisis planning.
With the rise of reported active shooters, it is no surprise the initial thought going through most people’s head when they hear gun shots is “active shooter.” A case in point is when chaos broke out at New York City’s JFK Airport on August 14th when terminal passengers suddenly began to hear noises and false stories that the noise was
suspected gun fire. As the rumor spread, hordes of people began running and screaming, fearing that an active shooter was on the loose. In the end, it was sheer panic and fear as there was no shooter. (Fortunately there were no reported injuries either.)
It should be noted that this is a major international airport, and yet it seems that there was a distinct lack of response planning for a suspected active shooter. The New York Times reported that security officials from a multitude of agencies seemed confused about the security protocols, chain of command, notification and communication.
Invictus wants our clients to have two basic takeaways from this incident. The first is the need for planning, and the second is the need for training. When you plan and train for the worst and have to respond – even if it’s a false report – you will be ready. Planning and training can also lessen the negative consequences of a false report, especially if complaints of confusion and/or personal injuries occur stemming from a lack of planning and/or training.
So ask yourself, if a rumored active shooter can create widespread panic, can your plan adjust to the above scenario? And if not, then how will you respond to the real threat? It is leadership that is obligated to protect life and the reputation of the company. Will your emergency management program be tarnished for not being ready to safeguard human life? Let Invictus partner with your teams and get you “planning and training” solutions to this ever present danger.
For our K-12 schools:
We know there are numerous identifiable soft targets in our country but the most vulnerable soft targets with unimaginable devastating impact is to our educational institutions. At Invictus we want to partner with our education leaders and provide the awareness, planning, and training activities to plan for the active shooter and how to respond to the phases of an attack.
At Invictus, our experts know the importance to identify a problem before it becomes life threatening. Is your team trained in: 1) gathering proactive intelligence by using situational awareness to observe pre-attack indicators, 2) behavioral threat assessment, and 3) identifying behavioral cues?
Our passion is to protect life, let us help with your passion too!
In honor of Dragon Con, which is about to take place in our hometown of Atlanta, we’d like to take this week to once again unite our favorite topics of risk management and nerdom.
Homer Simpson just never seems to know what to do in the event of an emergency, does he? How can you get your employees to know what to do in case of an emergency? How can you get your employees to report incidents so that emergencies can be dealt with before they happen?
It takes a lot of “P” – policies, procedures, planning, practice, practice, practice.
Policies: I’m thinking that the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant probably has policies in place for incidents and emergencies. One good policy may be having the nuclear safety inspector (i.e., Homer’s job) actually inspect each reactor daily. Fictional cartoon power plants aside, policies are important so that your people know what actions, behaviors, and strategies are appropriate. Your people should know your policies so that they can stop emergencies before they happen, keep things running smoothly and safely, and have a clear idea of who is in charge. What if your policy is to keep all egress points closed and locked, with access granted only via a card reader, yet employees regularly flout this policy by keeping doors propped open? It may get rid of some annoyance in their day-to-day functioning to prop doors, but it is against policy, and it increases the risk that an unwanted individual will gain access to the building. Employees need to know your policy and they need to know that the policy has a purpose and that reporting violations improves everyone’s safety.
Procedures: You think there is an actual button/series of buttons and switches Homer should press during a nuclear meltdown? I’m thinking – yes. Does he know what that button/series of buttons and switches is? Possibly, possibly not. Homer should know the procedure (i.e., the series of actions conducted in a certain order) for an emergency. Your people should also know emergency or incident procedures. What should your 10th grade math teacher do if one student threatens another with a knife? What should your front desk receptionist do if an irate client comes in demanding to speak to someone? What should your employees do if an active shooter enters the building? You need to have procedures in place so that your people know what to do.
Planning: Does Homer ever have to fill out incident reports? I mean obviously Homer causes a lot of incidents, and I’m sure he’s technically required to fill out an incident form. My guess is that the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant probably created a bunch of new types of incident reports after Homer started working there. Listen, if you want your people to report incidents and follow the proper policies and procedures, you need to plan ahead. Do your people even know how to report an incident? What’s the good of a policy requiring an incident report when there are no blank incident reports available? We’ve been to schools that have a policy of contacting the security director after an incident, but none of the faculty have the security director’s number. How are they supposed to follow through with policies and procedures when they don’t have the tools or resources necessary to do so? You need to plan ahead and give your people the tools they need to keep the workplace safe.
Practice: Practice, practice, practice. As with any procedure, the more you and your people practice it, the more effective it becomes. Homer routinely does a terrible job on emergency drills, but your people shouldn’t. Drilling an emergency plan, a fire evacuation, or even practicing who to call after an incident is a fundamental part of keeping your people safe. If you want people to report incidents, you need to teach them how to do it and then make them practice it.
Confused about the title to this blog? You’re in good company – most people have no idea what either of these terms mean. But both are very simple concepts that can improve security.
Bollard: a short vertical post intended to control vehicular traffic
CPTED: Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design
Bollards are a simple way to increase security via environmental design.
Imagine a building with a glass facade. This particular building is in Denmark and situated on a quay where there is no vehicular traffic, but it helps make my point here. A car/truck/bus could easily crash into a building like this and cause significant injury to the people inside. Someone looking to intentionally cause destruction (as opposed to a traffic accident) may see an all-glass facade like this as a perfect target. (Again, we are not finding fault with this particular building in Denmark.)
Now imagine just a few steel or concrete bollards placed around this building. Paint them, decorate them, put plants on them – do whatever you want to make them visually appealing if you want. (Click here for some truly cool bollard pictures.) Suddenly you have an inexpensive yet effective security device that precludes a vehicle crashing through the glass facade.
And there you have it! Bollards as a way to improve security.