What Safety Challenges Are There for Schools Reopening this Fall?

As in-person schooling returns, what should the top priorities be for facility managers? What are the new safety challenges facing schools? After all, school safety priorities, strategies and challenges have changed.

To address these, School Safety Today host Daniel Litwin spoke with Paul Timm, VP of Facility Engineering Associates. Timm has years of experience in the industry and was honored as one of the Most Influential People in Security in 2020 by Security Magazine.

Timm began by describing some of the key changes during COVID that will continue to be important post-pandemic.

“Wayfinding is not just directional but also keeps people in specific paths. Electronic access control is another. Most had 24/7 access to a building through any door. COVID caused greater restriction. It won’t be as restrictive, but accountability will be better. Contact tracing to know where a person was in a building if they tested positive for sanitization reasons could now be used for more practical purposes,” he said.

While many facility managers and administrators had to find quick solutions in the pandemic, now is the time to assess.

“Being proactive is key. Optimizing systems, ensuring the public address system is comprehensive, and video surveillance are all areas to assess,” Timm said.

Bigger picture, Timm urged schools to update their emergency plan, which often doesn’t get the attention it needs. The last year focused centrally on health and wellness, which is critical, but not the entire picture. “Some forgot the nuts and bolts of physical security, and the foundation is on policies and people that use the system.”

Another critical point in the change from before COVID is the student perspective. Timm noted, “Students found their voice and should have a role in creating safe environments. Their social-emotional well-being is all part of this.”

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