The lives of today's college-aged Americans have been repeatedly punctuated by deadly mass shootings in schools. And, unfortunately, that trend is not likely to change anytime soon: in the first half of 2018 alone, at least 42 people have been killed and 77 injured due to school shootings.
In a perfect world, those numbers would be zero. But, until then—how do campus security departments ensure the safety of their students?
Improving Campus Safety: The 5-Step Approach
1. Define the Problem
First, understand the institution's internal and external environment regarding security and safety. A college may have many different potential threats to consider, including issues with violence, but the unique characteristics of its region, country, and demographics may also have an impact on how the institution functions and how campus community members interact.
Prior to developing a security and safety program, data should be gathered to determine which specific issues to address and where protection and prevention efforts are necessary.
2. Identify Potential Threats and Protective Factors
Once campus security departments have assessed the types of threats present on their campuses and in their communities, the data collected can be analyzed from a risk-based perspective to identify common factors that influence the operational approach, protective measures, and weaknesses in security.
Identify incident trends to understand vulnerabilities, then start thinking about protective factors already in place, such as patrols by campus security officers, security procedures, technology, and training programs.
3. Develop and Test Prevention Strategies
Use the information gathered in the first two steps to create informed security strategies. Shaping security and safety plans based on a campus's specific problems, risks, and protective factors allows for a more targeted, effective approach to incident prevention, detection, and response.
Implement the new strategy—but don't stop there. It may not work as well as expected. To make a long-term positive impact, continuously measure performance, test the strategy, and build on it based on newly-identified risks and improvement opportunities. Take corrective action when necessary.
4. Advocate Widespread Adoption
For security strategies to be effective, it is vital for everyone to be involved. Work within the leadership, the college, and the community at large to communicate goals, encourage adoption of security programs, and promote reporting methods. This will involve training staff, removing roadblocks for universal adoption, and distributing plans and protocols to stakeholders.
Too often, people take security and safety for granted. Remind everyone that effective programs exist and find creative ways to reward those who participate—because the only way to ensure better school security and safety is successful ongoing adoption of these programs.
5. Continue to Measure and Adapt
Building a safe campus is a continuous process. As with any program or initiative, if a security program isn't measured against baseline statistics, it's impossible to know for sure if it's an effective use of the institution's resources.
Collecting and analyzing data can help campus security departments discover underlying causes of violence, highlight areas for improvement, and determine the most effective prevention methods. Ultimately, using research to form, test, measure, and adjust security and safety efforts is the best approach to building a safe campus community.
A Well-Established Approach to Campus Safety
Although different institutions may apply these steps differently based on their individual organizational needs, the major pillars of this five-step approach are well-established in the tenets of education safety. Many campus security departments understand these concepts, appreciate them, and perform their own variations on their campuses—but, ultimately, keeping these five steps in mind is critical to improving campus security and safety.
To learn more about this five-step approach, as well as the tools and training that aid in implementation, visit Omnigo's blog later for Part 2 of Improving Campus Security and Safety: The 5-Step Approach.