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Summer is a good time for a college or university administration to review its emergency/crisis plans. Your first step in creating or upgrading a plan should be…

As we tend to slow down a little for summer, this is a good time for a college or university administration to review its emergency/crisis plans to make sure it is still up to meeting the challenges it may face.

Any number of events–a gunman on the grounds, a chemical spill, or violent weather–might lead to the difficult decision to call for a campus lockdown.  Students, faculty, staff and the surrounding community will scrutinize that decision.  But it is one that may very well save lives.

For six years I was in charge of security for the Washington, D.C. Public Schools and only rarely did I have to lockdown a campus.  And when I did, it was only after close consultation with my staff and law enforcement. There is no automatic formula for ordering a lockdown.  But make sure your emergency plan is in place and up to date before reaching a point where a lockdown is necessary.

Your first step in creating or upgrading a plan should be establishing a security task force, which should include representatives from every major area of campus–for example, academic affairs, campus police, IT, human resources, mental health services, legal counsel, facilities, students, and so on.

The task force should have endorsement from the highest levels of the university’s leadership, including the chancellor, president and/or board of trustees.  This demonstrates that the university considers security a top priority and helps to ensure the active participation of staff.  Once the task force is in place, the information gathering process should begin.

Be comprehensive in the approach and try to consider every possibility so that the security plan addresses all potential scenarios. Omitting even one potential threat from the plan may compromise security.  At the beginning of the risk assessment, one of the most important tasks is to seek the guidance of a qualified and experienced security solutions provider.  A quality provider is specially trained in spotting security vulnerabilities and can recommend the appropriate measures to address those situations.

I’ll have more on the planning process for a lockdown in my next higher-ed post.

PatrickFielPatrick Fiel is public safety advisor for ADT Security Services and a former executive director of school security for Washington, D.C. Public School System. He also served 22 years in the Army Military Police Corps, where his responsibilities included day-to-day security operations at the West Point Military Academy. During his time with ADT, Fiel has conducted more than 100 television, radio, newspaper, and magazine interviews as a public and school safety expert.

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