Meadow, just 18 years young, was killed in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas February 14th massacre.
Following the attack, Meadow’s father, Andy Pollack, was frequently in the news as an emotional and passionate advocate for improved school safety and security. I was later introduced to Andy, and while I never had the pleasure to know Meadow, it was clear from Andy’s description that this courageous girl was destined to lead.
Safety and security is a broad field which includes hardware and technology and the human factor. While equipment such as locks, cameras, alarms, or ID cards and technology are key elements of a sound program, they are only as effective as those who operate them. Schools working toward comprehensive solutions which integrate emergency preparedness planning with hardware and/or technology for maximum impact can accomplish this when they:
1.) Ensure that the best security and safety equipment for the school is selected, maintained and operated correctly.
2.) Focus on emergency planning management to include the development and training of proper emergency response protocols and communication strategies.
These two steps will mitigate eventual crises such as the horrific event that occurred at Marjory Stoneman Douglas.
Emergency planning and practice are critical additions to security hardware/technology as they lead to proper response. Lack of preparedness planning and training may cause stakeholders to emotionally react leading to chaos, misuse of technology, poor communication and an un-coordinated effort among faculty, staff, students and parents.
Andy Pollack’s description of his daughter inspired me to create an easy-to-remember, pro-active security and safety mnemonic in Meadow’s honor. Using a student’s name, in particular Meadow’s, just might motivate schools to consider both appropriate security hardware and technology solutions and commit to the important work of emergency planning management.
The six components of The Meadow Effect are outlined in more detail below.
The MEADOW Effect:
While not necessarily in sequential order, these are the essential components of a comprehensive emergency preparedness program.
The MEADOW Effect
D DETER, DELAY, DENY and DETECT (The Four D’s of Security)
O OBSERVE and REPORT
W WILLINGNESS TO ACT
School leaders need to know, understand and resolve the school’s vulnerabilities or weaknesses that may lead to injury, loss or damage. Examples of vulnerabilities are a non-functioning public announcement system, broken door locks, unenforced access control policies or insufficient training for security personnel. On the other hand, threats or hazards like tornadoes or man-caused incidents cannot be controlled, but a carefully constructed and practiced safety, security and emergency preparedness program will mitigate damage from these threats.
Education crosses all components of the MEADOW Effect as people cooperate when they know and understand the what, why and how of the emergency plan. Safety, security and emergency preparedness education and training will empower school stakeholders (students, teachers, staff, visitors, parents, etc.) to follow the coordinated emergency plan. At a minimum, this would include teaching the cadre of response protocols and drills including the practice of complex drills. An example of a three-part complex drill would be to call an evacuation. Once all stakeholders are accounted for, a reverse evacuation is initiated (back into the safety of the buildings) followed by a lockdown. The most important part of all emergency drills is the emphasis on learning their purpose and how to do them correctly for maximum safety.
A school can have a robust emergency preparedness training and education program, but if they lack the means to announce and communicate the emergency protocol in response to an incident then chaos will likely ensue. Whatever communication method a school uses, the announcements should be clear and concise, leaving little room for confusion. To announce a response protocol, industry best practice suggests not to use color codes such as red, black or yellow as the stress of the event may cause stakeholders to become confused. Instead, the recommendation is to use plain language such as “lockdown, we have an active assailant situation” or “evacuation, there is smoke in Building Five.” When planning how to communicate for emergency announcements, schools should have a back-up plan in the event one method fails.
“See something, say something” is a phrase frequently used to encourage school members to report suspicious behavior. This effort is enhanced when schools create systems for stakeholders to take action and announce those observations to the appropriate school leadership. Education on what to report and how to report will encourage school personnel to take this important step. For example, reporting suspicious on-line and social media postings has saved children from something as serious as suicide. Access to announcement tools such as cell phones, tablets, apps, radios, etc. provide stakeholders a way to announce possible threats to school leadership who can initiate the appropriate response protocol. Timely responses to serious announced threats can result in saving lives.
DENY…DETER…DELAY…DETECT (The Four Ds of Security):
The four D’s are frequently referred to as the principles of security and crime prevention. The use and purpose of any security device, technology or person in a security role are tied to one or more of the four D’s. For example, a metal detector used correctly and in a proper location would be to deter, detect and possibly deny an assailant entry while properly maintained and positioned door locks would be to deter and delay. Again, like the other components of the MEADOW EFFECT all school stakeholders’ benefit from proper training in the use and application of security related devices and technology. Likewise, people in a security role or security support function will respond best to an incident or threat if they have had sufficient prior training and practice.
OBSERVE & REPORT:
Schools are busy places, but our current climate requires that all school personnel be vigilant in observing surroundings. Training and education will help all to know what constitutes vulnerabilities and threats and what to look for. Once personnel learn to be more attentive, they can more effectively activate the school’s plan for see something/say something leading to the most appropriate response from the incident management team. Sometimes its just seconds of taking action that averts a crisis.
WILLINGNESS TO ACT:
Leadership requires a courageous and decisive stance to protect students, faculty and staff. While school leaders will know how to lead the curriculum, create opportunities for teacher professional learning and manage the school building, they are less likely to know as much about school safety, security and emergency preparedness. Training is, then, essential, as increased knowledge will correlate with a courageous willingness to act. Seeking advice from knowledgeable security experts and committing school resources to emergency planning management will increase the likelihood that leaders will respond with knowledge and confidence to an incident before it becomes a crisis.
Meadow and the other 16 innocent victims who lost their lives at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas massacre are surely motivation enough for schools to take charge and apply The MEADOW Effect. If the six components of The MEADOW Effect are followed, communities will feel more consolidated and prepared to respond to any inevitable threat.
My thanks and appreciation are offered to Andy Pollack and his wife, Julie, who reviewed this article and approved the use of Meadow’s name in the MEADOW EFFECT.