Managing security

from the top

School environments are unique and everchanging, Leon Harris, Principal Consultant of Harris Crime Prevention Services writes.

Each day brings something new into the mix: staffing issues, student issues, the weather, engaging with neighbourhoods and parents, meeting visitors, juggling relationships, rules and regulations and property maintenance – all while ensuring positive teaching and learning outcomes.

If you are managing these dynamics, words like rewarding, frustrating, annoying and disappointing readily come to mind. If you add yet another dynamic, security,the challenge increases.

In more recent times the security dynamic has become part of an expanding daily risk management challenge. The school environment and its immediate surrounds has a duty of care emphasis, whereby everyone must be kept ‘safe’ and must be seen to be ‘safe’. Nothing new in that. Personal security and property security (safety) have always been part of every school’s agenda.

In more recent times the security dynamic has become part of an expanding daily risk management challenge.

The security environment

However, our changing society and changing risks have seen antisocial and criminal behaviour happening in ways not previously experienced.

What has changed? Why has security moved from a relaxed subconscious back of agenda topic to something that has become front line? The obvious and worrying answer is that schools have become softer targets for intimidating and criminal behaviour. This brings a new crime (security) risk imperative.

Security risks, threats and incidents

In the management and prevention of antisocial or criminal behaviour, security risks are defined as the possibility or probability that something harmful or damaging might or could happen. Risks require a strategic response. Security threats are beyond the ‘could happen’ stage. Threats require an urgent response. Something is about to happen. Security incidents are happening or have happened and require an immediate response.

Yet another challenge – whose job?

A clear understanding of risks, threats and incidents in real time and with real consequences, raises the response accountability bar.

Managing security risks and preventing threats or incidents is now a top job. It is yet another challenge to add to a principal’s list. Delegation yes, but ultimate responsibility and accountability, as with every other school environment risk, comes from the principal’s desk. But where is ‘security’ on the ‘to manage’ list? It is important to include the entire school community in the risk assessment and risk management process.

Security status

Security has moved well up the list because of its new found awareness status. It is a catch all term that nets everything from terrorism to vandalism. It is understandably high on the list of parents, staff, students and the local community. Security risks and management, like other school environment risks, are under regulatory, mainstream and social media scrutiny. Managing security must therefore be strategic and professional.

Simple security science

There is a ‘science’ to identifying and managing security risks. There are known likely criminal behaviours. There are policies, procedures and practices (the three ‘Ps’) that can anticipate and mitigate those behaviours. Principals and staff can develop simple yet strategic methods of proactive security ‘measurement’, using the same formulae that measures and manages every risk impacting on school environments.

There are security risk management experts you can call on to help set up the science. Local police can help with background research and solutions.

Once the three ‘Ps’ are locked in, remember to rehearse and revisit the ‘science’. Security risks and procedures should be regularly challenged to ensure they are current and relevant.

Security sense and sensationalism

Measured security science should be coupled with security sense, not reactive sensationalism. Get the three ‘Ps’ right and all stakeholders on and off campus will know that everything has been done to minimise and/or prevent security breaches. Below are a few tips to ‘check’ when developing and managing the science.

Expectation – do intended offenders have an expectation of success?

  • Has the school been ‘hit’ before and what measures are already in place to prevent subsequent hits?
  • Security management strategies need to out manoeuvre the expectation of offender ‘success’.
  • Ability – do offenders have the resources and/or knowledge?

  • Often crimes are planned around a ‘watch and wait’ knowledge of a school campus and its routine operations.
  • Opportunity – does the benefit outweigh the risk in the eyes of potential offenders?

  • Is there a large gain (cash and/or other valuables) with very little risk of being caught?
  • What school based crime prevention (security) strategies are likely offenders aware of?
  • Remembering these tips will help in planning a school’s three ‘Ps’ strategy.

    Security stewardship

    Finally, understanding, identifying and managing security risks within a challenging school environment cannot be left to a few people. It is an extension of inclusive stewardship that makes for a healthy learning environment which all staff and, wherever possible, all students, should embrace.

    Keeping your school safe means taking a serious preventative approach to managing what has unfortunately become core school business.