It is widely accepted that all schools should complete regular campus safety assessments in partnership with safety experts to maximize campus safety. However, the exact content of those assessments will vary based on the specific team hired to perform them. There are many professional safety consultants that work with schools, and each has different methodologies, processes, and criteria they use to audit facilities.
When selecting a school safety assessment team, open communication is critical. Consider asking some key questions about the people and the process they use to ensure the assessment meets your school’s specific goals and needs.
Here are six questions to get you started.
How comprehensive is your assessment process? What does it cover?
Not only is this necessary to know on a practical level - you will need to know what is included in the price quoted for an assessment - but asking what’s included can also help you to coordinate areas that you’ve identified as needing attention during your self-assessment.
Not all school assessments are conducted the same way, or use the same tools, as there is little standardization across the industry. An assessment approach will vary depending on the type of company doing the service. For example, a fire department may prioritize the identification of fire hazards, a medical-centric company may focus on identifying threats to health and well-being; a structural engineering company may focus on potential structural hazards. By asking about the breadth and depth of the assessment, you ensure a well-rounded holistic assessment.
Who will be conducting our school’s assessment? What credentials do they have?
It is valuable to understand the background and credentials of the team or individual who will be assessing your campus. Understanding this can help you to feel confident that you have hired experienced, educated professionals who can be trusted with your community’s safety.
For example, you might ask:
What safety credentials does the team have that makes them qualified to do this work? (This might include a professional certification or a background in health, security, law enforcement, or another relevant field)
Does the team or individual leading the assessment have experience working in and with schools?
How long has the team or individual been with the company?
To probe a bit deeper, you might also ask about their knowledge of local codes for school buildings and campuses, as well as their familiarity with local legislation regarding school safety.
Have you conducted assessments for similar schools? Can you provide references so we can speak with them?
As with any vendor or contractor, you can request references from your school safety assessment team to verify their claims and explore how others experienced their work.
Consider asking for references who are:
Current or previous school clients of the assessment provider, from similarly sized campuses, regions, and student populations
Schools in your local area
Employees or former employees of assessment service provider
Team leaders or company officials within the assessment company
What can we expect on the day of the assessment?
Consider asking whether the assessment will be done during school hours, after hours, or during the summer. If the assessment will happen during school hours, ask how it will be conducted; will the assessment team need to watch the teachers or administration in action? Will they be present during an emergency drill? Will they follow a particular class or visit the entire school?
Understanding what interactions will look like ahead of time can help you avoid disrupting the usual schedule as much as possible, which will make your assessment more accurate.
What is the timeline for the assessment process and who is our point of contact?
A school safety assessment can take anywhere from 3 weeks to 3 months from start to finish, depending on the process and scope. While each company approaches it differently, a typical assessment may look like this:
2-3 weeks of organizing logistics and performing background research to contextualize the assessment visit
1-2 days of actual onsite assessment
3-4 weeks post-visit to compile and present the report of findings
It’s also important to know who from the assessment team you’re going to be communicating with during the process. Ask who the direct point of contact is and. make sure that you have their contact information. Make it clear from the beginning that you expect to receive regular updates from them about progress and plans regarding action items.
What can we expect following the assessment?
Generally, assessments culminate in a report of findings presented to the school team by the assessment service provider. Understanding what the company plans to provide - including its format - can help you know what to expect and plan ahead.
Some specific areas to probe include:
What written reports will be included? (e.g. summary report of priorities, detailed findings, recommendations, ratings, preferred vendors, etc.).
Will there be a shareable version available to give to board members, parents and other community stakeholders?
How will you present the next steps and recommendations?
Ideally, your assessment partner will take this opportunity to lay out full details and timing to help align expectations and set the stage for a seamless experience.
School safety is a vital part of educational environments. Use these questions to help you to identify how your staff will work with the assessment team and whether they are a good fit for your community so that you can foster a safe, accessible, and comfortable environment for your students, staff, and the larger community.
Thank you to our friends at Joffe Emergency Services for sharing this article for our collection of Parent Resources. Joffe Emergency Services provides security, safety and medical support services to empower schools, event venues and organizers, and organizations to confidently prevent and manage emergencies and save lives.