3 Key Takeaways from “The Five Layers of School Safety” Webcast Featuring Gary Sigrist

David Trask| April 23, 2021

Late last month, we teamed up with Campus Safety Magazine to bring the insights of Gary Sigrist—a former educator, school safety director, and police officer—to facility managers and educators alike.

In the webcast, Sigrist lended an expert’s perspective to the school safety issue that facility managers are facing throughout the United States.School Safety

Here’s what we learned.

1. Know The 5 Layers of School Safety

Emergency Management

This is made up of four phases: prevention/mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery. Sigrist emphasized the importance of an Emergency Response Plan (ERP) developed in concert with First Responders and other area stakeholders. The ERP plays a vital role in every phase of emergency management, but is especially important for preparedness and response.

Incident Command System (ICS) and Staff Training

This second layer of school safety outlines the importance of establishing unified command for a variety of school emergencies.

ICS, according to FEMA, is “A management system designed to enable effective and efficient domestic incident management by integrating a combination of facilities, equipment, personnel, procedures, and communications operating within a common organizational structure.”

Because different schools face different safety challenges, Sigrist noted that staff should be trained for the emergencies most likely to affect their schools.


In this layer of school safety, your emergency plan gets tested. Sigrist presented a variety of exercises including both discussion-based, such as seminars, and operations-based exercises, such as drills. However, conducting exercises in itself is not enough; there must be an After Action Review (AAR) in which you evaluate what went well and what needs to change in the future.


It’s important to have security infrastructure that includes hardware such as door barricades and software that facilitates emergency communications. Notably, Sigrist pointed out the importance of notification systems that offer messaging through text, voice, and email. Moreover, the system must be equipped to launch via a smartphone app.

Positive School Culture

The final layer of school safety that Sigrist laid out was a positive school culture. He said that it’s paramount for everyone involved to create a positive environment in which students feel welcomed and adults care about the well-being of their students.

2. Establish Threat Assessment Teams

Sigrist spoke at length about the importance of establishing Threat Assessment Teams in the manner recommended by the FBI, the Department of Education, and the Secret Service.

These teams, he said, should have clear answers to the following questions:

Is the authority established to conduct a threat inquiry?
Is a multi-disciplinary team developed and trained to assess threats?
Are interagency relationships and partnerships with agencies established to respond to a threat?
Are warning signs and reporting procedures clarified and provided to staff, students, and parents?

The main goal of these teams should be to create a clear procedure for addressing a variety of threats. Their duties should also include providing or identifying support services for the student who made the threat.

3. Suggestions for Schools

Sigrist had these suggestions for all school staff, including facility managers:

Recognize that anyone can stop a school shooting.
Understand the importance of rehearsal and planning for attacks.
Know that physical security alone is not the answer.
Implement suicide and bullying prevention programs.
Create a positive school culture and communicate well to prevent violence.
Use anonymous tip lines.
Arm teachers with school resource officers and mental health support services.
Plan crisis drills that are not scary.
Increase mental health services at school and in the community.

Know the Numbers

According to Sigrist, 81% of the time, at least one person had prior knowledge of a planned attack. In another 59% of cases, more than one person had knowledge. Yet, just 4% with prior knowledge of the planned attack tried to dissuade the attacker.

Sigrist concluded that many with prior knowledge of attacks simply did not believe it could happen.

Clearly, there are things we can do today to stem the flow of violence in our nation’s schools. Even though the news cycle may move on for the time being, we all must start taking action – from facility managers to school administrators.

To learn more about how you can better prepare, respond, and recover, watch the recorded webcast.


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