Frequently Asked Questions

Following are questions Soteria Group is most often asked. If you have questions that are not addressed here, please email us directly with your concern. 

Being well prepared involves an investment of time and resources but has the potential to reduce injury, save lives, minimize trauma and after-effects, and ensure the return to learning. It is well worth the effort. Good planning and preparedness will facilitate a rapid, coordinated, effective response when a crisis occurs. If the factors listed below have been adequately addressed and reviewed, you are prepared. If not, please contact us.

PLAN FOR RESPONSIBILITY:

Everyone needs to be on the same page and be ready to assume a role in the case of an emergency. Are all these people on the same page at your facility: the Superintendent, Safety Leadership Team and Safe Schools Design Team, School Principal and the Building Safety/Crisis Team, and representatives from fire departments, law enforcement agencies, health departments, and mental health agencies?

Organizational and Supporting Information:

Has your school completed, collected and maintained current:

  • Floor and site plans
  • Topographic, floodplain and street plans
  • Organizational charts with names, job titles, addresses and telephone numbers of key personnel (incident commander, accountability, release to parents, emergency cards from office, etc.)
  • Annual surveys of school premises to identify and address security issues are due to the Director of Safety and Security yearly
  • Annual inventories to check the quality of stored emergency response kit and trauma kit supplies
  • List of building and district Crisis Team members, addresses and telephone numbers

Preparedness:

Has your school completed the following tasks as part of a ten step Emergency Response Crisis Management Preparedness Plan?

  • Identify a school command post, perform operational checks and update communication resources
  • Assign school crisis roles for the school Incident Command Structure (ICS)
  • Designate and review inside safe assembly areas
  • Designate on-site outside safe assembly areas
  • Identify and contact two off-site emergency evacuation locations
  • Print the student roster, assemble emergency cards, and student and staff photos
  • Check and replenish contents of the Emergency Response Kit and Trauma Kits
  • Identify emergency evacuation staging areas for individuals needing evacuation assistance
  • Identify individuals needing evacuation assistance and develop Individualized Evacuation Plans
  • Establish your crisis team meeting, exercise and drill schedule and document completion
The Preparedness Plan (Emergency Response and Crisis Management Preparedness Plan) should contain an assessment of the facilities and a variety of operational checks. It should be specific enough to provide directions as to what actions should be taken immediately and flexible enough to allow for changes according to the situation. When developing your Preparedness Plan, responsibilities and the means of implementation should be understood. Specific circumstances should be defined that will activate the Plan’s implementation.
An Emergency Response and Crisis Management Preparedness Plan is an extensive document reflecting the following:

  • school information
  • the identification of school command posts
  • operational check lists
  • updated communications and other resources
  • assigned school crisis roles for school incident command system (ICS)
  • designation and review of inside and outside safe assembly areas
  • identification and contact info for two off-site emergency evacuation locations
  • a printed student roster
  • printed emergency cards and student and staff photos
  • emergency response kit
  • nurse’s trauma kit
  • identification of emergency evacuation staging areas for individuals needing evacuation assistance
  • identification of individuals needing evacuation assistance and individualized evacuation plans
  • crisis team meeting schedule
  • exercise and school drill schedule for the year
Each school should identify key staff to serve on the Crisis Management Team. The following list outlines the roles and responsibilities to be served by the team, as needed:

  • Principal – School Incident Commander
  • School Safety Coordinator/Public Safety Liaison (School Resource Officer, School Security or Designee)
  • Assistant Principal – Operations Team Leader
  • Assistant Principal – Logistics Team Leader
  • School Nurse – Emergency Medical Coordinator
  • Building Engineer – Facilities Coordinator
  • Assistant Principal, Mental Health – Student & Staff Coordinator
  • Office Personnel – Supplies & Equipment Coordinator
  • Mental Health – Student Care & Recovery Coordinator
  • Assistant Principal – Transportation Coordinator
  • Assistant Principal, Dean, Security, Teacher – Student Supervision Coordinator
  • Office Personnel, Cafeteria Staff – Food & Water Coordinator
  • Office Personnel – Student/Parent Reunion Coordinator

Under certain circumstances, some staff may assume more than one role or function. Roles and functions needed may be modified depending on the type of crisis situation.

A Vulnerability Assessment is defined as the measure of asset risk as a function of likelihood and consequence when weighed against the anticipated degree of loss or damage.

At Soteria, the purpose of a Vulnerability Assessment is to identify and inventory assets that demonstrate an exposure as well as assets that possess the capabilities to prevent or mitigate exposure. There are four phases:

  1. Prevention/Mitigation – includes document review, i.e. Emergency Operation Plan, Policy and Procedures, training, site visit, survey/interviews, examining existing crime and school incident data
  2. Preparedness/Planning – hardening of the school infrastructure by use of limited access/egress, door locks, cameras, most importantly training, lockdowns
  3. Response/Intervention – assessment of policies/procedures, emergency operations plan, and recommendations identified through the site visit and subsequent surveys.
  4. Recovery – assessment of ability to accelerate the healing and time necessary to restore the school back to normal operation.
Absolutely! Have an emergency response plan and practice your plan. Once there’s a crisis, guessing what to do won’t work. Good planning and preparedness will maximize lifesaving and minimize damage.
Good planning and preparedness will facilitate a rapid, coordinated, effective response when a crisis occurs. Be sure you have been through a vulnerability assessment, created a preparedness plan, and built a solid crisis management team. Being well prepared involves an investment of time and resources but its value is beyond description.
Assign the role of School Safety Coordinator/Public Safety Liaison to a staff member and have them establish relationship with local law enforcement, to best inform what to do during a crisis. This should include plans, training, drills/exercises, etc.”
Clear lines of communication are crucial to a successful response to a crisis. During the planning process, it is important to establish effective lines of communication among and within the state, district, school, and community groups. When creating a crisis plan, there are several communication needs that should be addressed.

  • Use common terminology across schools in a district.
  • Identify several modes of communication for both internal and external communication.
  • Make sure that schools have adequate supplies of communication gear and that they are accessible to the appropriate individuals.
  • Verify that communication devices are compatible with emergency responder devices.
  • Create communication plans to notify families that a crisis has occurred at their child’s school.
  • Establish communication pathways with the community.
  • Designate a Public Information Officer (PIO) to deal with families, the community and the media.
  • Keep staff who are managing the students informed.
  • Notify families of action being taken.
  • Communication often stops after a crisis subsides.
Crime prevention through environmental design (CPTED) addresses human behavior as impacted by the physical environment. Environmental design through infrastructure and landscape architecture encompasses the use, design and/or removal of objects for the purpose of creating a landscape which can provide or restrict movement or visibility.
Natural surveillance is the capacity to see what’s occurring without having to take special measures. Clear direct views, such as those provided by windows, provide natural surveillance. Access control is the capacity to limit who can gain entry to a facility, and how. A school with dozens of unsecured exterior doors cannot hope to control comings and goings.

Without access control, a much greater emphasis must be placed on surveillance, territoriality, school climate and security staffing. Both natural surveillance and access control provide a more secure environment. Main office staff and administrators are the most important players when it comes to school safety.

Target hardening is the strengthening of a building as a method of protecting both the building and the lives within it in the event of an attack. There are three aspects to Target Hardening:

  • Territorial Reinforcement: Physical barriers, elevation changes, street/driveway speed reduction, natural landscape (trees/shrubs), parking restrictions;
  • Interior Hardening: Locking mechanisms, security cameras/surveillance procedures, alarms & notification procedures, security patrols, designated School Resource Officer (SRO);
  • Maintenance: Continuous monitoring, mending, replacing, cultivating vegetation, pruning shrubs, and regularly testing all electronic equipment.
There is an entire list of activities that should be followed in case of an eminent threat, which culminate in administrators having three options:

  • secure the perimeter
  • lockdown
  • evacuate the school

The choice should be based on advanced planning; a crisis is the time to follow the crisis plan, not to make a plan from scratch. Principals and other crisis team members must be familiar with the response and intervention protocols before an event occurs.

A Real Time Crime Center (RTCC) is a a real-time live video feed to a centralized, off-site, technology center – like a traffic control center at an airport. The purpose of the RTCC is to improve officer decision making in the field, in real time, by allowing decision makers and responders to literally view the environment, thereby providing situational awareness to officers engaged in high-risk calls for service. The RTCC’s intent is to improve officer and citizen safety.

  • Assist officers around the clock
  • Provide live intelligence to officers before and while they respond to calls
  • Provide live analytical data to officers
  • Take intelligence requests from officers
  • Have a mobile command post that can be deployed to serious incidents and crimes
  • Video monitoring
  • Secure the door by locking it.
  • Blockade the door with heavy furniture.
  • Use a sleeve (metal or plastic device, such as a PVC pipe), and/or use a rope or belt which slides over the door closer (the scissoring mechanism often found above the door) to prevent/obstruct movement of the door.
  • Use a “Columbine Lock,” which describes any inside locking system.
  • Cable and collar systems greatly prevent door movement.
  • Night Lock systems securely lock door in place with a metal device fixed into the floor and a metal-type device located opposite the hinges, which slides into place.

However you blockade the door, find a place to hide where the active shooter is less likely to find you.

The most important aspect of school safety is: Have a Plan.

The Comprehensive Safe School Plan consists of the following:

  • Mitigation/Prevention
  • Preparedness/Planning
  • Response/Intervention
  • Crisis Response/Recovery
Coordinate with your School Safety Coordinator/Public Safety Liaison (School Resource Officer, School Security or Designee). In the absence of a coordinator or liaison – contact us at Soteria Group directly.
The Crisis Team has primary responsibility for crisis response and recovery. Plan scheduled training with your Crisis Management Team, with support and input from local law enforcement agencies, first responders, and the Soteria Group.
A lockdown is the actual crisis response for significant risk inside of a building. Lockdown may be declared for situations such as, but not limited to:

  • Shots being fired on or immediately adjacent to the campus
  • Fight involving weapons on campus
  • An armed intruder, hostage situation, or an armed barricaded subject on or immediately adjacent to the campus
  • An explosion near but not on campus
  • Natural disasters, hazardous materials incidents, or threats involving weapons of mass destruction that indicates immediate danger to those on campus

Lockdown training involves following all the steps required to manage a lockdown situation:

  • The principal or authorized person should announce over the intercom that the LOCKDOWN protocol is in effect. If necessary, runners may be sent to ensure that personnel in outlying buildings and outside areas are notified and may need escort into the building or other safe area
  • All students and staff outside the building are returned to the building or other safe area with escort, as appropriate
  • All exterior doors are closed and locked. NO student, parent or staff access in or out of the building
  • All interior doors are closed and locked, as possible
  • All classroom doors are locked, if so equipped, and students and staff move away from doors and windows and sit on the floor. Window coverings should be closed, as possible
  • If students are not in class at the time the protocol is announced, they should proceed to their assigned class or area. If it appears unsafe to proceed to their class area, students should proceed to the nearest classroom. Teachers should lock their classroom doors, if so equipped, once the hallways near their room are clear of students. If teachers observe imminent danger near their room, they should immediately secure their room and notify the main office of the danger via the intercom system or classroom telephone
  • Personnel who are engaged in outdoor activities when the protocol is announced will need to make a prompt determination as to whether it is safer to attempt to enter the building to take shelter or to leave the campus to seek shelter in the safest place available. If the decision is made to leave the campus, school employees should notify the main office of their location and number of students/employees present as quickly as possible. A list of all personnel who are evacuated should be made by the staff member present as soon as it is safe to do so
Yes. We will coordinate with your School Safety Coordinator/Public Safety Liaison (School Resource Officer SRO) and outreach to your local fire department, Red Cross center, and others who are stakeholders in your emergency response plan.
  • Increased use of alcohol and/or illegal drugs
  • Unexplained increase in absenteeism; vague physical complaints
  • Noticeable decrease in attention to appearance and hygiene
  • Depression/withdrawal
  • Increased severe mood swings
  • Noticeably unstable, emotional responses
  • Explosive outbursts of anger or rage without provocation
  • Suicidal; comments about “putting things in order”
  • Behavior which is suspect of paranoia, (“everybody is against me”)
  • Deterioration in quality of work
  • Missed assignments or appointments
  • Continual seeking of unusual accommodations (extensions, postponed examinations)
  • Essays or papers that have a theme of hopelessness, social isolation, rage, or despair
Soteria Group will implement a training curriculum and will coordinate training sessions with your School Safety Coordinator and/or Public Safety Liaison (School Resource Officer).
Yes. Greater awareness of school shootings began with the Columbine High School incident in 1999. This was the first “big” school shooting incident, recognized both nationally and internationally through media coverage. Since then, there has been an increase both in incidents and in public awareness of risk.
This is a change in protocol since the Columbine High School incident in April, 1999. One of the lessons learned since Columbine is that law enforcement first responders must first go to the threat (and not the injured), giving them greater potential to save more lives. The faster the threat is neutralized, the faster the situation can be stabilized. By neutralizing the threat law enforcement clears the way for medical personnel to render aid to those injured.
Please see our answer to “What are Communication Procedures?”
Yes, funding assistance is available. Soteria Group can help find available grant resources based on the results of our vulnerability assessment(s) to determine the specific needs and requirements of your organization. Soteria Group can then assist your team in drafting grant proposals to clearly communicate your organization’s mission and goals as it applies to safety and security in alignment with the vision funders may have for the utilization of their funds.
Response Action Steps are the actions you must take in a crisis situation.

  • Expect to be surprised. Regardless of how much time and effort was spent on crisis planning, the members of the crisis team should know that there will always be an element of surprise and accompanying confusion when confronted with a crisis.
  • Assess the situation and choose the appropriate response. Following the plan requires a very quick but careful assessment of the situation. Determine whether a crisis exists and if so, the type of crisis, the location, and the magnitude. Because the team practiced the plan, leaders are ready to make these determinations. After basic protective steps are in place, more information can be gathered to adjust later responses.
  • Respond within seconds. When a crisis actually happens, make the basic decisions about what type of first action is needed and respond within seconds. An immediate, appropriate response depends on a plan with clearly articulated roles and responsibilities, as well as training and practice. With proper training, district and school staff and students will be able to respond appropriately within seconds.
  • Notify appropriate emergency responders and the school crisis response team. One common mistake is to delay calling emergency responders, such as the police or fire departments.
  • Notifying the school’s crisis team and district executives allows them to begin the necessary measures to protect the safety of all persons involved. Unless informed otherwise by the incident commander, school crisis team members should proceed with their responsibilities.
  • Secure perimeter, lockdown, or evacuate the school as appropriate. This step is crucial and should be one of the first decisions made.
  • Triage injuries and provide emergency first aid to those who need it. The plan should assign emergency medical services personnel and school staff with relevant qualifications to determine who needs to assure people of the seriousness of the situation and the wisdom of the directions being given. There should be a designated location for EMS to treat the seriously injured on scene.
  • Keep supplies nearby and organized at all times. If you move to another location, remember to take your supplies with you. Monitor the amount of supplies and replace them as needed.
  • Trust leadership. Trust the internal crisis team members and external emergency responders who have been trained to deal with crisis. Trust will help calm the situation and minimize the chaos that may occur during a crisis.
  • During a crisis, leaders need to project a calm, confident, and serious attitude to assure people of the seriousness of the situation and the wisdom of the directions being given.
  • In certain situations it may be necessary to yield leadership to others in the plan’s designated command structure.
  • Communicate accurate and appropriate information.
  • The crisis team should communicate regularly with staff who are managing students.
  • Families need to know that a crisis has occurred and that all possible steps are being taken to see to the safety of their children.
  • Use your student release and family reunification plan.
  • Allow for flexibility in implementing your crisis plan.
  • Document your actions.