Workshop Focuses on Improving Safety and Security of Schools
Friday, December 6, 2013
Posted by: Pam Towns
Representatives from the State of Connecticut School Safety
Infrastructure Council (SSIC), the Katy (Texas) Independent School District (ISD),
the St. Clair County (Michigan) Office of Homeland Security/Emergency
Management (HSEM), the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the U.S. Department
of Education, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the American Institute of
Architects and the National Institute of Building Sciences convened in
Washington, D.C., November 14-15 to attend the School Safety Tool Development
Workshop at the National Institute of Building Sciences.
The tragic events at Sandy Hook Elementary School greatly
moved the nation and indicated a need to better prepare schools for a whole
series of undesirable events. The DHS Science and Technology Directorate
(S&T) Resilient Systems Division (RSD), which sponsored the Workshop, is
currently working to develop design guidance that helps the construction community
to design and build better schools and establishes an objective basis for
decision-making that all schools can use to help create a safe environment for
students and teachers.
Following last year’s Sandy Hook shooting, the Connecticut
Congress formed the SSIC to establish a process for assessing schools for
security risk. DHS/S&T/RSD, which worked closely with the State of
Connecticut and testified for both the Sandy Hook Commission and SSIC, is currently
collaborating with the SSIC, Katy ISD and St. Clair HSEM, to prepare this risk
assessment process to meet the needs of the educational system.
During the two-day event, participants reviewed the guidance
manual and methodology currently in development and worked to establish requirements
for a new integrated rapid visual screening (IRVS) module to automate the
process, with the goal of making the tool available for schools around the
country. It is expected that the completed tool will fulfill a need shared by
schools nationwide and, as a result, could have important and far reaching
In addition to the Workshop, the SSIC, Katy ISD and St.
Clair HSEM delegates also participated in a November 14 informational meeting
at DHS, sharing their experiences and lessons learned on school shootings and
school safety challenges. That meeting was attended by Connecticut Governor Dannel
Malloy; DHS Secretary (Acting) Rand Beers; Undersecretary (Acting) of DHS
S&T Dr. Daniel Gerstein; many other DHS managers and staff; and
representatives from a number of other federal agencies and organizations
interested in school safety.