School and Campus Safety Expert Talks with Versare About School Safety Plans.

Jun 20th 2023

Versare spoke with Tyrone Wicks, President of the Ohio Chapter of the National Association of Campus Safety Administrators, to get his perspective on campus and school safety initiatives.

Tyrone, what do you think is most important when considering a school and campus safety plan?

For School Resource Officers or Campus Safety Professionals, your first duty is to protect students, educators, and staff. They are your most important assets. So, it’s important to think about measures that help deny aggressors access to your spaces in the first place. For that, I think you need to look at and always be open to the best technology and resources available. Each school or campus is different, so the needs are not always the same – but there are very good tools available, and I encourage SROs and CSPs to learn and be open to new ideas.

When I think about school or campus safety, my first thought is how to deny them access to the building. How do you create processes and barriers that are easy for students and teachers to get through but lock others out? You could consider electronic entry which also gives you the ability to quickly lockdown your site. There are new technologies and resources that leverage AI. There is film that can help you create a bullet-resistant barrier for your windows.

Then, you need to train your people so that if an active shooter situation happens, they know what to do. If you never think or imagine it, people will freeze and not act. Training and communication are critically important.

What makes a good school or campus safety plan?

The very first thing to consider is how you’re communicating in case of an emergency – how do you communicate to each and every person to let them know what’s going on and what action to take? Second, how do you deny access to your building or buildings? I like to tell people that crime prevention is about hardening your area so that you’re not the best candidate for a crime. And third, what does your response look like? You’re creating Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) and you’re sharing those with your municipal police so that expectations are established and agreed upon. Training is also an important component so that people know what to do until law enforcement arrives. Lastly, what happens after an active shooter event – who is briefing the public, how are you supporting your staff and students, how are you communicating with your families, and how are you supporting the larger community?

Tyrone, can you give us your thoughts on school safety and response time?

When you put together a school safety plan, the one thing you don’t want to rely on is response time. As well-trained as a professional police force can be, response time can be slow or compromised by situations out of your control. We saw this with Parkland and Uvalde, unfortunately. And that’s a problem because the active shooter situation is generally happening within three and a half minutes.

We’ve been hearing about the FBIs current guidance for surviving an active shooter incident: Run, Hide, Fight. How does that factor into a safety plan?

I’m absolutely behind that. The best way not to get shot is to not be there when the rounds are fired. If people have the ability to run to safety, that is the number one thing we want them to know – exit the area if you can. Our number one thing is to run, and if we have something that will make that easier, like ShieldWrite, that’s fantastic.

The next thing is to hide in a place where a shooter can’t see you or hear you. The doors are locked, the lights are out, you’re quiet and your phone is off. If an aggressor can’t see anything and the door is locked, they’ll probably keep moving. But if they know someone is in the room, you need to think about how to fight. What can you do to disarm or maim the perpetrator so that no one else gets shot?

Appropriate training on these three principles is essential. Done well, it will help prepare and empower staff and students to put them into practice—and survive—should the unthinkable occur. You want Run, Hide, Fight to be easy and you want to train your people, so should something happen, the reaction becomes intuitive. If you don’t talk about it and practice it, you’re unlikely to do it in a moment of crisis. But if I’ve taught you, your movements will be much more instinctive, and your subconscious will take over.

In general, people don’t want to feel like they are in a fortified environment. How do you address that?

As much as possible, you want your security to be as invisible as it can be, and there are many solutions today that can help you do that. When I first talked to Versare about the new bullet-resistant whiteboard, I said that it needs to be our little secret that it’s bulletproof. It’s a fantastic whiteboard, and no one would realize in everyday use that it can stop rounds from a semi-automatic rifle. But if and when you need it, God forbid, it’s there to help protect you.

You mentioned ShieldWrite – do you see this as a viable option in a classroom setting?

I do. I’m very excited about ShieldWrite. Instead of running down the hallway and being exposed, you can step behind this as a shield and go down the hallway and be safe.

For police officers and SROs, the experts on the ground, they will know how to deploy it and intuitively understand that it can be used as a barrier. An SRO will also know where best to place it because every location and school is different. And they should be in on the strategic decisions on how to use it and how to train others on it.

ShieldWrite can be used in a number of different environments because it’s so versatile. Not only that – it’s a great whiteboard. It’s not like it's a fire extinguisher which is useless unless there is a fire. It’s practical and can be used right now – yet it’s engineered and designed to stop bullets if and when you might need it.

Thank you, Tyrone. Any last thoughts on how to be better prepared should the unthinkable happen?

I think good is the enemy of great, and the thing that separates a good SRO from a great SRO is their use of resources. And not all those resources have to do with how well you shoot, how well you arrest people or how tough you are. It means outsmarting criminals, and often, that means what are you doing beforehand to prevent a crime. How can you stay abreast of new products and resources that can help you and discourage an aggressor before such an event can even occur?

Visit Versare and see ShieldWrite at the Campus Safety West Conference July 10 – 12, Tabletop #43.

Or contact us to learn more about ShieldWrite today.