The Silver Lining to School Crime Statistics Is…

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Does an increase in incidents make your school better prepared? In June, the U.S. Dept. of Education released statistics on school crime that was collected for the 2011 -2012 school year, and administered by the Indicators of School Crime and Safety. Schools continue to face rates of crime that, especially in urban schools where it is most prevalent, are costing more than the school’s safety record: For some, it’s a daily struggle to manage the behavioral challenges, protect the students, and foster a high-quality learning environment. The report focuses on the topics of victimization, bullying, school conditions, fights, weapons, security staff, and perceptions of personal safety on school grounds. If you are interested in how your school measures up, here are a few statistics to look at:

  • In 2011, students ages 12–18 were victims of about 1,246,000 nonfatal victimizations at school, including 648,600 thefts and 597,500 violent victimizations
  • In 2011, 10% of male students in grades 9–12 reported being threatened or injured with a weapon on school property in the past year, compared to 5% of female students.
  • In 2011, about 28% of 12- to 18-year-old students reported having been bullied at school during the school year and 9% reported having been cyber-bullied.
  • 77% of students reported observing the use of one or more security cameras at their schools in 2011, which represented an increase from 70% in 2009.
  • In 2011, 5% of students in grades 9–12 reported having access to a gun without adult permission.
  • During the 2009–10 school year, 43% of schools reported the presence of one or more security staff at their school at least once a week.

School Crime

How is this linked to emergencies? According to Pediatrics, by responding to disruption and crime, especially in urban/suburban areas, school administrations are developing better protection protocol for their students and are better prepared for disasters as a direct result. Bolstered relationships with local police and first responders also contribute directly to the safety and preparedness of the schools. Their likelihood to conduct lockdown and evacuation drills have increased, grant flow for implementing emergency management protocol has increased, and access control to the school is more structured with many students and faculty being required to wear ID—thus enhancing accountability. While administrators and faculty may be struggling to foster positive learning environments, their hard work is preparing the system to be protected against threats.

Tips:

  • It is important to have assigned evaluators on site to write down all incidents and observations during a drill. These will be used to improve safety function when the crisis team discusses lessons learned.
  • Carrying out a crisis team meeting after each criminal or emergency event is pivotal to recount all details amongst yourselves, and then follow-up with action plans.
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Higher Education and Emergencies: A Few Challenges of a Diverse System and the Importance of Participation

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We want to not only describe methods that will improve your emergency preparedness planning operations, but also provide the leading information for best practices and applications. Recently, the Department of Education’s Readiness for Emergency Management in Schools published a Guide to Developing High Quality Emergency Operations Plans: http://rems.ed.gov/docs/REMS_IHE_Guide_508.pdf. Here, we will explore the benefits of integrating participation in the first steps to creating an Emergency Operations Plan.

Higher Education Institutions produce complex systems of diverse people and locations within a given campus or inner-city campus that therefore provides a challenge to emergency management. What is the best way for higher education institutions to manage all four phases of emergencies and ensure safety?

  1. Colleges occupy multiple buildings over a sizeable geographic area
  2. Working with complex enterprises such as administrative and classroom buildings, residences, hospitals, research and development facilities, sports arenas, and more
  3. Are occupied by differing amounts of diverse people who physically migrate throughout different buildings over the course of the day (faculty, staff, students, tour groups, etc.)
  4. Building materials and infrastructure within a building is most likely different for each structure on campus
  5. Multi-purpose facilities: i.e. Laboratories house sensitive chemical materials in research facilities that may also share classroom and administrative space
  6. Governance is often decentralized and operated individually within each department
  7. Events may bring in an additional tens of thousands more people for a few hours at a time, multiple times per month

These multi-variable complex situations automatically increase an institution’s vulnerability to risks because it makes evaluating risk an all-the-more difficult task to perform when the patterns of use and systems change depending on the semester. Yet these don’t have to be insurmountable and each unit within the institution must be tasked with evaluating its own independent risks and hazards. The importance of creating an Emergency Operating Plan (EOP) must be mandated from the top of the institution and implemented campus-wide in order to adequately reach the total population. Many schools are beginning to require departmental audits for completion of emergency planning, drills and exercises, and consistent crisis team meetings. Huzzah!

In order to create the EOP based on these complex risks and hazards, participation should be utilized to produce a representative sample of the population who would be affected in an emergency.  First, you should know the college’s overall demographics, keeping in mind groups including restricted mobility and mentally challenged persons. Students, parents, staff and faculty should all be represented on the team, “as well as those from diverse racial, ethnic, linguistic, and religious backgrounds, including international student populations, so that specific concerns will be included from the early stages of planning,” (p. 7).

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How do you to recruit volunteers for a planning team that addresses concerns and needs for their population? You can advertise for volunteers, describe the importance of school security, and make announcements about upcoming meetings. Have first responders and local emergency managers present to encourage discussion about the risks and hazards, incident command systems, protocol and safety.

Emergency 101 Tip: Hold meetings regularly and start by creating goals for each area extracted from guided discussion within the group. These select people are informing your crisis team. The crisis team is who will set up your incident command system and serve as the contacts for the EOP, and should be paid staff. The participatory group should serve as your Checks and Balances feedback agents. They will make sure that the systems implemented are covering each base at every level, and should review all EOP documents.