By Juliet Maez

Would it surprise you to learn that the first step in obtaining Federal Grant or foundation monies to fund school security initiatives is not finding the right grant to apply for or even requesting the submission forms? While there are numerous grant programs willing to assist schools with funding for safety through environmental design updates, specific steps must be followed to access these funds.

The most important preliminary step that must be taken by any entity aspiring to receive grant funds is preparing an Assessment Report. When we begin working with a client we encourage this process be started well before they actually have determined what purchases they might need grant assistance for. This is because almost every government and private funding source is going to ask questions that will have already been answered in a thorough Assessment Report. Since the application window for many programs is a narrow one, having this report complete and “ready to go” will expedite your application with more sources and in a timely manner. Also, if you employ the assistance of a grant writing consultant (Soteria or anyone else), they will need this information that only you can provide.

What is the Assessment Report? It is basically a needs and capabilities analysis of your organization and physical plant. Some of the information that needs to be gathered includes but is not limited to:

  • Demographic information about the campus, its staff and students
  • Determining the type of construction and number of buildings, dormitories, and facilities requiring increased security
  • An inventory of your available equipment with its original purchase date and current condition
  • Copies of emergency planning documents or contingency plans (Preparedness Plan)
  • Checking with the local emergency management groups and asking if a formalized risk assessment was ever performed on the school, and getting a copy of it (we perform this Risk Assessment as our first action with all clients)
  • Locations and quantities of any hazardous materials located in the school building or on campus
  • Historical and statistical crime, safety, and security data for the past three to five years. Documentation regarding past critical incidents on campus is also very important
  • Knowledge of mutual aid plans with other local government first responders in the area that might be called into play for critical incident management. Their capabilities should also be included
  • Budget information for the past three to five years for the institution where a clear financial picture of the security or safety budgets are listed
  • Documentation of existing natural disaster type hazards, such as being down river from a hydroelectric dam or on an earthquake fault. Past history of extreme weather events such as tornadoes and hurricanes, ice storms, or flooding that may have occurred.

Occasionally government or law enforcement agencies will not be willing to provide reports or make the requesting process unnecessarily difficult. You may be required to submit a formal request on letterhead or have an authorized administrator physically go to the office with proper identification in order to have information released. In the infrequent case that you encounter a source that will not provide information you must indicate in your assessment that you requested the information but were denied access.

The documentation collected should be assembled into binders and organized by category. Place the current years information at the top of each section. The original should be kept at the school, giving copy packages to anyone who requires the information. You should plan to update your Assessment Report annually.

The Assessment Report is the vital first step in obtaining any financial assistance for your organization. It can take several months to assemble all of the data, but will save you a great deal of time in the future as you identify and begin to apply for grants.