School safety advisory & checklist

28 October 2006: This is a copy of a special advisory that was released by the Department of Homeland Security to schools and law enforcement, advising them of ways in which they can increase their safety level. The advisory also provides a checklist schools can use to determine if they are at increased risk.

-The bulletin advises schools to take the following protective measures: Review and validate all school emergency and crisis management plans for completeness and currency. Helpful guidance can be found at this link.

- Raise awareness among law enforcement officers and school administrators by conducting table-top exercises (TTX) for school emergency and crisis management plans.

-  Raise awareness among school workers and students by conducting “all hazards” awareness training for the school environment.

-  Raise community awareness of any potential threat and vulnerability -  Prepare the school staff to act in a crisis situation and exercise this ability.

- Consider a closed-campus approach to population control that would strictly limit visitors.

- Consider a single entry-point for all attendees, staff, and visitors.

- Focus patrols by law enforcement officers around and on school grounds.

- Have a plan to maintain contact with school buses.

- Ensure that emergency communications from and to schools are present, operable, and exercised.

- Obtain “Terrorism: Preparing for the Unexpected” brochure from the local Red Cross Chapter and distribute it to parents of students in grades K-12, staff, and faculty,

- Report suspicious activity and individuals to proper authorities.

Protective Measures in the long-term should emphasize physical safeguards that involve physical plant enhancements to present a more robust target and to provide a more survivable environment. Among the measures schools should consider are the following:

- Install secure locking mechanisms for all external and internal doors and windows, with quick-release capability from within for fire escape.

- Install robust window and external door protection means with quick-release capability from within for fire escape.

- Consider a safe area (or safe areas) within the school for assembly and refuge during crises. Consider retrofitting of robust structural enhancements and an over pressurization system in the safe area(s).

- Consider applying protective coating for windows on facilities that face traffic areas. That and other helpful information on school facilities can be found at:

The following activities may suggest terrorist surveillance of educational facilities. Alone, each indicator can result from legitimate recreational or commercial activities or criminal activity not related to terrorism; multiple indicators, however, could suggest a heightened terrorist threat:

- Unusual or prolonged interest in security measures or personnel, entry points, and access controls or perimeter barriers such as fences or walls.

- Interest without reason in obtaining site plans for schools, bus routes, attendance lists, and other information about a school, its employees, or students.

- Unusual behavior such as staring at or quickly looking away from personnel or vehicles entering or leaving designated facilities or parking areas.

- Observation of security reaction drills or procedures.

- Increase in anonymous telephone or e-mail threats to facilities in conjunction with suspected surveillance incidents-indicating possible surveillance of threat reaction procedures.

- Foot surveillance involving two or three individuals working together.

- Mobile surveillance using bicycles, scooters, motorcycles, cars, trucks, sport utility vehicles, limousines, boats, or small aircraft.

- Prolonged static surveillance using operatives disguised as panhandlers, shoe shiners, food or flower vendors, news agents, or street sweepers not previously seen in the area.

- Discreet use of still cameras, video recorders, or note taking at non-tourist locations.

- Use of multiple sets of clothing and identification or the use of sketching materials (paper, pencils, etc.).

- Questioning of security or facility personnel.

- Unexplained presence of unauthorized persons in places where they should not be.

Law enforcement agencies, security personnel, and educational administrators should be aware and remain alert to indicators of surveillance activities. School officials are encouraged to review and update their evacuation plans as well as security and emergency policies. In addition to planning and the need for frequent exercises involving both the schools and the First Responder Community (Law Enforcement and Fire/EMS), planning and exercises should involve the local medical community to ensure that mass casualty contingencies are fully covered. Emergency medical treatment for children is significantly different from adults and should be factored into any plan or exercise.