Honoring Newtown through Preparedness
In an NBC article By Bill Dedman – Newtown anniversary: US schools keep trying wrong fixes to deter school shootings – the article reads: “It happened after Columbine, after Virginia Tech, and after Newtown, too. After every massacre in a school, Americans grasp at quick cures.”
At Firestorm, we are uniquely qualified to comment in this area, as we are currently engaged to help keep hundreds of schools and tens of thousands of students safer. Firestorm principals and Expert Council members have the strongest credentials in the school safety industry. They have responded to some of the nation’s greatest school tragedies—including Virginia Tech, Columbine, and Platte Canyon. Firestorm’s crisis response experience extends beyond school shootings and includes incidents of: sexual abuse, suicide, bullying, hazing, employee/student/domestic violence, drug and alcohol abuse, drowning, child pornography allegations.
The main take away from all of these tragic events is that there is no single solution to prevention or mitigation. Only through the implementation of a preparedness program, that incorporates assessment, planning, training, and testing, along with the use of equipment, technology and most importantly, human resources, is there the greatest potential to make a difference in the outcome.
Paying attention to the evidence
As detailed in the NBC article, a landmark study in 2002 by the U.S. Secret Service and the U.S. Department of Education, examining the facts of 37 school shootings, identified patterns contradicting the public perception of a loner who “just snapped”:
- Incidents of targeted violence at school are rarely sudden, impulsive acts.
- Many attackers felt bullied, persecuted, or injured by others prior to the attack.
- Most attackers engaged in some behavior, prior to the incident, that caused concern or indicated a need for help.
- Most attackers were known to have difficulty coping with significant losses or personal failures. Many had considered or attempted suicide.
- Most attackers did not threaten their targets directly prior to advancing the attack.
- There is no accurate or useful “profile” of students who engage in targeted school violence. Some come from good homes, some from bad. Some have good grades, some bad.
- Most attackers had access to and had used weapons prior to the attack.
- Prior to most incidents, other people knew about the attacker’s idea or plan, and often other students were involved.
What steps should schools take?
The research urged that schools take the following steps:
- Assess the school’s emotional climate.
- Emphasize the importance of listening in schools.
- Adopt a strong, but caring stance against the code of silence.
- Prevent, and intervene in, cases of bullying.
- Involve all members of the school community in planning, creating and sustaining a school culture of safety and respect.
- Develop trusting relationships between each student and at least one adult at school.
- Create of mechanisms for developing and sustaining safe school climates.
The White House response to Newtown
The Obama administration proposed this year a list of school safety measures that are closer to those recommended a decade earlier by researchers. These programs are wrapped up inside a gun-control initiative, part of the administration’s “Now Is the Time” initiative “to protect our children and communities by reducing gun violence.”
Key elements of the Obama plan for school safety:
- Ensure that every school and college has a comprehensive emergency management plan, using best practices for training and emergency drills.
- Create a safe and positive school climate, with programs to address bullying, drug use, poor attendance foster conflict resolution and violence prevention.
- Make sure that students and young adults up to age 25 can get treatment for mental health issues.
- Add up to 1,000 counselors and police officers in schools — called school resource officers — and help schools buy safety equipment and train crisis intervention teams.
What Can Your School Do? Predict.Plan.Perform.®
Predict. Conduct a detailed threat and vulnerability analysis—a Risk Assessment. Do you know your operational and security risks? Do you have a threat assessment process that meets best practices?
Plan. Develop emergency response, crisis management and communications, reunification, and security plans. Have all of your school violence plans been integrated with your visitor, human resource hiring/termination, and threat assessment policies?
Perform. Train and test plans. Does your school have response protocols in place that have been drilled and practiced with first responders? Is your reunification plan actionable?
What Should Your School Do Now?
Download the whitepaper on Workplace Violence as a start. Then call Firestorm®, the nation’s leader in school preparedness to schedule a no-fee readiness assessment (a $2500 value) 770-643-1114 or Contact us via our website.
We can help your school (or business) build a resilient environment where everyone understands what can go wrong and what can be done in response. Hardening the physical environment and utilizing security equipment, technology and notification tools augment the solution, but in the end, all outcomes hinge on human beings and their actions.
Visit our Partners at http://www.renweb.com/ – RenWeb incorporates over 200 core features, integrated into a single database to provide instantaneous data sharing school-wide via the web, automating school administration, classroom management, and communication with the home.