Our School Safety Assessments Use an All-Hazards Approach

In a typical threat assessment, vulnerability is defined as a combination of the attractiveness of a facility as a target and the level of deterrence and/or defense provided by the countermeasures. Target attractiveness is a measure of the asset or facility in the eyes of an aggressor and is influenced by the function and/or symbolic importance of the facility. The level of deterrence and/or defense provided by the countermeasures can be determined by answering the following questions:

#1 – Is the placement of countermeasure providing a high level of deterrence or defense?
#2 – Is the countermeasure functioning properly?
#3 – Are proper procedures being used in the implementation of the countermeasure?
#4 – Does the countermeasure have inherent weaknesses that allow it to be easily defeated?

When conducting an all hazards assessment on an educational institution there needs to be a greater understanding of the true assets (faculty & students) at the school. Remember; emergencies are sudden and often unexpected, so it is not enough to plan for the most likely hazards; we must consider even the most implausible. Utilizing the All-Hazards approach enables us to develop an emergency response plan that encompasses a variety of hazards including those deemed unlikely. We also need to understand the culture and climate at the school and how to balance an open learning environment with the security demands predicated by today’s world. Throughout the process we consider all four phases of emergency planning: Prevention/Mitigation, Preparedness, Recovery and Response.

John Cutter Investigations Inc. evaluates the site against both natural hazards and man-made threats using the risk-assessment methodology outlined in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology (S&T) Directorate’s Buildings and Infrastructure Protection Series, “Primer to Design Safe School Projects in Case of Terrorist Attacks and School Shootings“, FEMA-428/BIPS-07/January 2012 (Edition 2). We also utilize the principles of Crime Prevention through Environmental Design (CPTED), Anti-Terrorism and Force Protection (ATFP). In utilizing these standards John Cutter Investigations Inc. is able to provide a solid foundation for the recommendations made to each educational institution.

The results of the risk assessment are used to help prioritize which mitigation measures should be adopted, in order to achieve a desired level of protection. Identifying and addressing potential school-wide vulnerabilities is an essential part of safety planning. Effective vulnerability assessments are fluid and should be repeated on a regular basis as threat levels change, operating systems are updated, and new security countermeasures become available. The following areas are reviewed and professional judgments are made based on contemporary security industry norms and the “best practices and current research” in school safety planning.

  • Operational Security (e.g., security, security officers, etc.)
  • Physical Security (e.g., walls, barriers, doors, locks, etc.)
  • Electronic Security (e.g., access control, CCTV, alarms, mass notification
    systems, etc.)


  • Security Policies and Procedures (e.g., weapons policy, Emergency Response
    Plan, etc.)

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