PASS Expands the Fifth-Edition Guidelines to Address Evolving Security Challenges in Schools

The fifth edition includes a new section that examines promising emerging technologies that have garnered significant interest and have been piloted in schools.

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The Partner Alliance for Safer Schools (PASS) has released the fifth edition of its Safety and Security Guidelines for K-12 Schools, which offers the most comprehensive information available on nationwide best practices specifically for securing school facilities, from subject matter experts across the education, public safety and industry sectors.

Coinciding with America’s Safe Schools Week 2020, Oct. 18-24, the release of the fifth edition builds upon the existing guidelines primarily with additional best practices for architectural elements and the use of communications systems that enhance emergency response capabilities. 

The guidelines provide school administrators, school boards and public safety and security professionals with a roadmap for implementing a layered and tiered approach to enhancing the safety of school environments, and a tool to prioritize needs. Provided free of charge, the guidelines have been downloaded by more than 4,000 stakeholders since 2018 and utilized in many districts to evaluate and improve security infrastructure and procedures. 

Earlier this year, the PASS guidelines were endorsed by SchoolSafety.gov, the federal government’s clearinghouse for best practice information across a range of school safety topics. In 2019, it was recognized by the Federal Commission on School Safety as well as in other state commissions and reports.

“We are proud to continue to improve the PASS guidelines to ensure it remains a valuable tool for a wide range of stakeholders involved in keeping our schools safe and secure,” said Mark Williams, PASS Board Chairman, “particularly at a time when those responsible for school safety face daunting challenges and limited resources.”

The fifth edition includes additional best practice recommendations including:

  • The importance and proper design of lockdown drills
  • Architectural features and communications technologies that help reduce the time it takes to get responders to the right location in a building or campus:
    • Zone emergency response systems
    • Emergency responder exterior door numbering
    • Enhanced facility mapping
    • Signal boosting systems to ensure coverage for emergency responder radios and other wireless devices
  • Updated classroom security recommendations with additional information and illustrations

Additionally, the fifth edition includes a new section that examines promising emerging technologies that are not yet included in tiered PASS recommendations, but have garnered significant interest and have been piloted in schools, including vape detection and passive weapons screening technology. 

The guidelines describe approaches within five physical layers for school facilities: district-wide, the property perimeter, the parking lot perimeter, the building perimeter and the classroom/interior perimeter. Within each layer, the resource outlines key safety and security components, such as policies and procedures, people (roles and training), architectural components, communication, access control, video surveillance and detection and alarms.  These are designed to provide stakeholders with:

  • Specific actions that can effectively raise the baseline of security
  • Vetted security practices specific to K-12 environments
  • Objective, reliable information on available safety and security technology
  • Assessment of current security measures against nationwide best practices
  • Multiple options for addressing security needs identified
  • The ability to distinguish needed and effective solutions from sales pitches on unnecessary products

“We believe this approach is critical to providing a simplified way for administrators to effectively evaluate their security infrastructure, prioritize investment and maximize security in ways that are consistent with longstanding security practices and ensure a baseline of facility security measures appropriate for school facilities,” said Guy Grace, Chair of the PASS Advisory Council and former director of security and emergency planning for Littleton Public Schools. “Most importantly, the guidelines support all-hazards approaches to school safety across multiple, interdependent disciplines.”

The latest guidelines are available at no cost on the PASS website along with a matching checklist tool, and PASS encourages education professionals, public safety personnel and security solutions providers to take advantage of these free resources.