December 17, 2018

Creating a Community-Wide School Safety Plan

By Ally Jones

Based on the article by Jeff Hicks, “Build Your Own Community-Wide Safety Plan: A Step-By-Step Guide.” Read the full article on Upshot.

Jeff Hicks, Sergeant at Blount County Sheriff, has experienced a number of events both big and small that have allowed him to successfully build a community-wide safety plan in his county that includes the school district, the 911 call center and all the teams in between.

When an emergency occurred early one July morning that required sheltering of residents in the large local high school while many key administrators were on vacation, two questions came to Jeff’s mind: “Do I have the contacts for the school district to get the building opened?” and “Do I have the school district’s emergency operations plan?”.

Following this situation, it was clear to Jeff that communications and information sharing needed to be improved, and he realized that Emergency Management software could be used for “immediate access to vital information [and] to build a true community-wide plan.”

Building from the Ground Up

“Since each school has its own safety plan, it’s the logical place to start your community-wide initiative… We started with a vulnerability assessment for each school. Boy, was that an eye-opener. Some of our campuses did well in their vulnerability assessment. Others, not so well, but it wasn’t their fault. It was caused by lack of funding and resources. Going through this process showed us we had to prioritize some schools to bring everyone in the county to the same baseline.”

The next step involved bringing in their first responders. “We invited our first responders—EMS, fire, law enforcement—in for a lunch and I began with a little exercise: ‘How many people here have a kid or grandkid, a niece or nephew, in one of these schools?’ Practically everyone in the room raised their hand… By personalizing it, you draw these people in.”

“Then, we showed them each school’s vulnerability assessment. For law enforcement, they looked at the layout of the building, including access control. EMS also looked at access points. For the fire department, it was seeing the areas identified as HAZMAT.”

Finally, Jeff got 911 communications involved. “Through the softwarwe, whenever an alarm is triggered in one of the schools, it activates all the mobile devices at the 911 center. We’ve also tied in our camera system into the platform, so the 911 center can monitor a situation in the school as it unfolds.” One school in Jeff’s district was able to use the floor plans available to help EMS shave minutes off of an emergency by locating a back door to enter closer to the student in need.

Pulling it All Together

“To see how all the parts of this system can work in tandem, let’s look at the Respond module. As soon as someone on campus activates that app, it sounds mobile devices all through the area. We’re not talking just at the 911 center, but our EMS, fire, and law enforcement as well. Everyone is on alert that something is going on at that school.”

“Just look at what it does for even one part of an emergency procedure, like accountability. Some of our campuses contain an elementary school, a middle school, and a high school. In that case, we’re talking 3,000 kids. Our old system of accountability—teachers using different-color cards—was inefficient. Now, with the app, we can watch student accountability roll in on our mobile device. We know exactly who’s missing, immediately… The common denominator here is that information flows so quickly through the whole system.”

“Your schools, law enforcement, and 911 center may seem like separate entities, but safety only works if they’re all on the same page. Our community-wide safety initiative is truly collaborative. I hope our journey can serve as a roadmap for your own mission.”

How do you approach school safety as a community-wide initiative in your district?

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Chad Leggett

I strongly feel that one of the greatest additional benefits of the NaviGate Prepared system is the ability to pull in various outside entities and personnel. The school is not just a school, it’s a major part of the community. With that being said, everyone who can help can be involved.

It’s wonderful to be able to include our first responders in the safety of our school community. They are impressed with the system and are thankful we’re on board.

Charles Hammonds

Having regular meetings and training’s is the only way to build a safe community beginning with our schools and first responders.

Rick Shaffer

Something we started in Mt.Vernon is a Community-School-University Emergency Planning Group Meeting we meet every mouth with all of our local first responders,EMA director, Knox Community Hospital and all of the schools and college’s in Knox county.This has been great for training and to share resources.

We have regular meetings with our First Responders about drills we plan, how to run the drills, and how to improve our safety practices. We will be getting our district safety team back together and meeting regularly as well. I am working with out county EMA director to plan some of the large scale safety drill we need to hold this calendar year.

I recently inherited a building safety plan to complete. It has many holes in it, and while not being at the site, I am finding it difficult to complete. I appreciate the advice of starting with the vulnerability assessment of the school as a means of getting the appropriate first responders involved. Once I am in place at the new building I plan on putting together a threat assessment team and moving forward.


Being able to include First Responders within the app is huge. We invite our police and fire chiefs in when doing drills so they can see how things go and give input. It also gives them the opportunity to use the app first hand with us present and we can work through any issues that may arise.

Steven Zentz

Seeing as I am a local police officer assigned to our school district. I do everything possible to involve my department along with the fire department in any drills. We also do department training here, so that the department has a better knowledge of how the school does things. Thinking back to when I was out of the school, I really had no idea what went on in the school. Why they did things and where they went. I try to grab a road officer to help me with lock downs so they understand the process. The fire department comes… Read more »

Shannon Myers

We work together to formulate a plan and practice this plan. We also pulled in local police officers to share tips that would help us to get acclimated to emergency situations. It is crucial to revisit your plan and team members, but also ensure that you local agencies are aware of the how they fit into your plan. They may even be able to help identify problems or help you to anticipate things that could go wrong.


Training and preparing staff on how to use navigate prepared is so important.

Julie Hermes

We use the ALICE training and Navigate Prepared so that we know we are prepared for emergency situations.

Julie Hermes

We use ALICE training and Navigate Prepared to prepare for emergency situations.

Julie Hermes

We use ALICE training to prepare for emergency situations.


We have included parents in several discussions about our schoolwide safety initiative in the district as well as community wide initiatives

Jennifer Eley

We had a parent/community night to discuss our protocols and receive feedback. We also had a small group of parents involved in the initial discussion.

Randall Williams

I really like that the system helps everyone feel a little safer.


The community first responders visit the school as a part of our emergency drills and are visible within the school community so students are comfortable with them.