Preschools realize that they have a responsibility to help keep children who are in their care safe and secure. Schools at every academic level are required now to have specific policies to keep children safe in the event that an intruder enters the premises. There have been innumerable incidents of violence against children once a hostile intruder enters a school. Who amongst us can forget that agonizing morning when preschoolers were brutally gunned down by an armed intruder in Newtown, Connecticut?
What can be done before the fact?
Pre-schools are required to have a plan in place to handle a possible intruder and all school districts have emergency procedures codified in this regard. Normally, fairly rigorous safeguards are in place to stop intrusions in the first place. The following are the ways in which preschools can be secured against intruders:
- Access control to the preschool must be very securely maintained. A main entrance that is identified as such should have accompanying signage. There should be clear signage throughout the school and perimeter directing visitors to the main entrance. A preschool can also put up ‘caution’ signs indicating that visitors who violate entrance policies will be prosecuted for trespassing, thus putting people on notice that the preschool intrusions very seriously
- By creating a sign-in and sign-out policy and escort procedures
- Using doors that can only be opened from the inside
- Installing secondary sets of doors so that if a breach has occurred, the intruder can be isolated. Many banks now use these doors against bank robbers.
- Using closed circuit cameras, intercoms and panic buttons to alert preschools about possible intruders
- Securing custodial entrances and establishing rigorous delivery/vendor procedures. It is a wise move to know who regularly enters and exits the pre-school grounds.
- Training both staff and administrators to recognize intruders and to immediately report such intrusions to campus police.
- Training both preschoolers to not open doors to strangers
- Consider using security electronic cards and readers at parking lot entrances, the main school entrance, doors used for physical education classes and any other point of vulnerability
What to do in the event of disaster
Despite these procedures, the worst can still happen. In the event of an intrusion, school administrators, staff and security can keep pre-schoolers safe by:
- Initiating emergency response plans, contacting local police and communicating the nature of the intrusion calmly.
- Immediately initiate established ‘lock down’ procedures and secure the buildings under threat.
- Have everyone shelter, lock doors and remain quiet
However, even the most rigorous and secure systems can be breached and at that point, securing pre-schools from intruders becomes a critical necessity.