Tiered Life Safety Technology Standards for Schools Outlined at ISC West

Partner Alliance for Safer Schools detailed four tiers of product agnostic life safety strategies to help K-12 districts protect against scourge of school shootings.

Tom LeBlanc

The Partner Alliance for Safer Schools (PASS) announced details of its tiered safety technology standards created for K-12 schools to easily incorporate into their security strategies, setting tangible goals for schools looking to better protect their students and employees.

PASS, which is powered by Security Industry Association (SIA) and National Systems Contractors Association (NSCA), outlined their product agnostic guidelines for the use of electronic security and life safety equipment in schools, system requirements, documents and training opportunities today at ISC West 2015 in Las Vegas.

Register: Watch PASS Members Outline Plan in CI Webcast

In the wake of a myriad of school shootings including the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., there was still no official standard for school security technology until PASS.

“After Sandy Hook, we could not send our kids back to school in good conscience without making schools safer,” said Michele Gay, a former schoolteacher whose daughter was killed at Sandy Hook Elementary. She created the Safe and Sound Schools Organization, and studied the patterns of what happened after school shootings. “There was lots of talk, but little action.”

Chuck Wilson, executive director of NSCA, spoke at ISC West about visiting an inner-city school in Chicago.

“Our kids have no chance of being educated in that type of environment,” he said. “I saw things I had no idea happened in schools.” It’s another reason Wilson is so passionate about working with PASS.

“Why did we create PASS?” asked Ron Hawkins, manager of special projects at SIA. “There really is no standard for school security technology like there is for fire codes. Schools lack official guidance. [PASS] is a toolkit they can use.”

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The PASS coalition members outlined its mission:

  • Improve security and life safety in schools by leveraging the experience and knowledge of stakeholders in school security
  • Establish guidelines and standards
  • Outline best practices for security technology applications
  • Identify solutions to funding challenges
  • Recognize that there is no “one size fits all” solution for schools, all of which are unique
  • Address that most technology recommendations are typically written by technology experts without the all-important input from school experts

The Tiered Approach

There are two guiding principles for the development of PASS, said Hawkins. The first is to remain vendor-agnostic and discuss only processes and technologies, and the second is the realization that there is no one-size-fits-all solution. This is why there is a tiered approach.

“Our ultimate goal is for PASS to be, in theory, a code,” said Brett St. Pierre, chairman of the alliance. “There is no silver bullet; every school district and every school is different.”

By creating tiered solution standards, PASS recognizes that not all school districts or schools have equal ability to fund security projects. During the ISC West press conference, it announced a K-12 Assessment tool that allows school to execute an easy analysis of its current security state, identify key areas to improve and select its appropriate tier.

PASS created four tiers. Tier 1 reflects minimal funding and offers basic standards for procedure implementation, identifying improvements and technology Implementation. This is just a start.

Stepping up to Tier 2 requires security staff. It offers standards for adding barriers, enhancing processes and establishing realistic security goals.

Tier 3 offers procedures and technologies to form an integrated approach to a safer school, requires yearly spending and plans for continual improvements. It identifies prevention opportunities and works toward a culture change through processes and technologies.

In Tier 4, the highest tier outlined by PASS, security becomes a “way of life” and processes are automatic. It acknowledges that threats still exist but it is set up to continue to improve processes and technologies.

PASS also announced the launch of PASS12.org as a point at which schools can get started working toward tiered safety solutions.

This is not a program solely targeted at active shooters. It will tackle bullying, drugs in schools, trespassers and other school security matters.

“If we can mitigate these risks, we go a long way to prevent active shooters in the future,” said Jim Crumbley, president and CEO of Risk Response Team, a consulting firm that worked to develop PASS.

Safety Requires Teamwork and Buy-In

PASS calls on educators, manufacturers, consultants, integrators and public safety officials to get involved in implementing these Partner Alliance technology standards for safer schools. The “Partner” aspect is essential in any mass notification emergency communication (MNEC) ecosystem, according to PASS.

The PASS consortium of SIA and NSCA is actually a relaunch and rebranding of the Education Interest Group SIA formed in 2013.

PASS combines the technical knowledge offered by SIA’s Education Interest Group with knowledge from representatives of schools, law enforcement, and trade associations. The effort is designed to leverage subject matter experts’ input and develop a coordinated approach to protecting students, staff and visitors.

The biggest hurdle will be getting the funding, acknowledged Wilson.

“We don’t want PASS to be yet another unfunded mandate,” he said.

At the end of the conference, the PASS team opened the call for schools to act as pilots. Energy and hopes were high as a school representative came forward and offered to be the first school to take part in a pilot program. That’s one.

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