Altaris Consulting Group Creating Safe & Secure K-12 Environments Sat, 02 Jun 2018 12:33:37 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Altaris Consulting Group 32 32 How to Manage K-12 District and Building-level Emergency Plans in NYS Fri, 02 Dec 2016 01:59:02 +0000 NYSED Section 155.17 outlines regulations for New York school district emergency plans. The regulations can be confusing, so Altaris has developed this overview to clarify the steps districts should be taking to ensure emergency plan compliance. If you need assistance in developing a district-wide or building-level emergency response plans for your schools, feel free to contact us for a free consultation.

District-wide school safety plans and building-level emergency response plans must be adopted or amended by September 1st of each school year. The district-wide school safety plan must be posted on the district website. The building-level emergency response plan is secure and must be submitted to the New York State Police and local law enforcement within 30 days of adoption, but no later than October 15th each year.

District-wide Safety Plan

Each school year, your district must have the district-wide plan reviewed by the district safety team and updated as needed. Special attention should be given to changes in contact information or conditions within the district that may require refinement of the plan.

If your Board of Education has previously adopted a District-wide Safety Plan, it is not necessary to re-adopt the plan each year.  NYS required each district to adopt a district -wide plan by July 1st, 2001 (8 CRR-NY 155.17(a)). If for some reason your district has never adopted this plan,  follow NYSED regulations for adoption including:

  • making the district-wide plan available for public comment at least 30 days prior to its adoption by the school board
  • formal adoption by the school board
  • updating the plan on the district website
  • submission of the plan link on your website to NYSED within 30 days of adoption as part of the Basic Educational Data System (BEDS) collection.

Education Law §2801-a and Commissioner’s regulation §155.17 require each district to file a copy of its district-wide school safety plan with the Commissioner. To comply with this requirement, each district must post their district-wide school safety plan on the district website.  

Building-level Emergency Response Plans (ERP)

Beginning with the 2016-17 school year, districts were required to begin using the NYS School Emergency Response Plan template as a framework for developing each building-level plan. If you have not already done so, plans for each school should immediately be developed using this template.  If your district is already utilizing the template, it is important to update certain information within the plans each year including:

  • Contact Information for administrators
  • Members of the building-level safety team
  • Members of the building-level emergency response team
  • Employee listing
  • Master class schedule

It is a requirement that each year, every public school and BOCES update and submit their building-level ERP to both the State Police and local law enforcement within 30 days of adoption, but no later than October 15th. Submission to New York State Police should be completed via the NYSED business portal.  Click here for detailed information on this process.

Please check with your local police agency to determine the method of distribution they prefer.

As a reminder, building-level emergency response plans are confidential and are not subject to disclosure under article six of the Public Officers Law or any other provision of law. These plans should not appear on your district website or disseminated to the public.

Applicable Law –  155.17(c)(3)

(3) Each board of education, chancellor or other governing body or officer shall ensure that a copy of each building-level emergency response plan and any amendments thereto, is filed with the appropriate local law enforcement agency and with the State Police within 30 days of its adoption, but no later than October 15th annually. Building-level emergency response plans shall be confidential and shall not be subject to disclosure under article six of the Public Officers Law or any other provision of law.

Floor Plans & Schematics

New York State Education Law §408-b states that “authorities for each public and private school building in the State shall submit the most current plans and specifications for each school building under their responsibility to the fire and law enforcement officials in the city, towns, or village where the school building is located.” The law further states that goal of the law is to facilitate “quick and easy access to and passage through school buildings should it be necessary for fire or law enforcement reasons.”

We hope you found this overview of the NYSED School Safety Plan regulations helpful. If you have any questions regarding emergency plans or any other K-12 safety and security issue, please feel free to contact us!

Applicable NYSED Regulation

Section 155.17 School safety plans  

3 Steps to Lockdown Room Preparation Sun, 27 Mar 2016 22:00:33 +0000 Lockdowns have become a fact of life in every school across the nation.  Removing opportunity from an imminent threat at your schools is critical.  Often overlooked is the average length of a lockdown in a real emergency, or even one where the threat is not quickly identified.  Building occupants can expect to remain sheltered behind closed doors for several hours or more while police identify the threat and eventually clear every square inch of the school.

An essential element of lockdown is not only securing staff and students behind closed doors, but also keeping them calm and quiet.  No small feat when you consider young children, special needs students or those students and staff who simply panic.

Preparing your room for the long haul can prove to be a life-saving preparedness action.  Here are 6 simple steps that can ease the anxiety and increase the likelihood of an effective lockdown:

Step 1 – Establish a Safe Zone

If you are reading this article from your classroom or other school work location, perform the following tasks:

  • Step outside your room and close the door.
  • Assuming you have a window in your door, look into the window at all angles and identify those areas you simply can’t see.  Note a landmark in the room to assist (i.e. “I can’t see anything to the left of the activity table”).
  • Armed with this information mark this diagonal line on your floor using colored tape or other creative art to establish the room’s “safe zone”.

In the event of a lockdown, you now know the specific area of your room that is safe from view from the exterior.  This is the area both you and any other students and staff will need to occupy in a lockdown.

The green triangle represents the room safe zone

Step 2 – Access the Safe Zone

Now take a look at this area carefully. Do you have the necessary resources and supplies within the safe zone to keep staff and students calm and safe?  Consider the fact that when students are not calm, they are not quiet.  When they are no quiet, they are simply not safe from a potential threat in the area.

So ask yourself, “how can I keep students calm for a long period of time?” Undoubtedly, the thought of keeping them occupied comes to mind.  Does your safe zone have the necessary resources to accomplish this?  Resources such as:

  • computer workstations to play games or stream content
  • books and other activities
  • games
  • toys that can be played with quietly

As critical as keeping students occupied is, staff must consider other resources necessary to manage a lengthy lockdown including:

  • a bathroom receptacle such a 5-gallon bucket with a lid
  • sanitary supplies such as toilet paper and hand wipesfood and water (In many districts where I have worked, staff have expressed success in requesting parent donations for food, such as a box of granola bars and water)
  • food and water (In many districts where I have worked, staff have expressed success in requesting parent donations for food, such as a box of granola bars and water)
  • first aid supplies
  • communications such a phone or PA system

Lockdown survival kit

a typical lockdown survival kit

Step 3 – Assess Your Room

Regardless of whether your District has undergone a formal safety and security assessment of all school buildings, staff should proactively access their space for critical items that may require mitigation.  Here are a few classroom assessment items to consider:

  • Do all staff (teachers, subs, aides etc) that utilize the space have the ability to immediately lock the door?
  • Do doors and locks function properly?
  • Does your space have a form of communication to alert the main office or 911 of an emergency?
  • Can visible glass be obscured by the use of blinds or other approved window coverings?

As effective as lockdowns have proven to be in saving lives, they can be extremely stressful for staff and students alike.  Taking proactive steps to access and prepare your room before an actual lockdown can make a challenging situation easier and effective.

To learn more about lockdowns and how to effectively prevent and manage critical incidents in your schools, be sure to check out our safety, security and emergency preparedness programs.

Avoid the 4 Common Drill Errors Sun, 27 Mar 2016 21:55:36 +0000 Having evaluated a countless number of drills with Districts, I often see the same evaluation mistakes being made time and time again. Below is a list of the 4 most common mistakes along with corrective guidance:

1. Not Evaluating Drills

While virtually every school performs a variety of drills (fire, lockdown, evacuation etc.), many do not evaluate these drills to:determine if staff and students can carry out procedures effectively

  • determine if staff and students can carry out procedures effectively
  • identify gaps and loopholes in planning
  • pinpoint problem areas before an actual emergency

Drills are essential tools to develop muscle memory. But they also provide exceptional insight into whether or not staff and students are comfortable in executing procedures and if those procedures actually work as planned. Every drill should be evaluated by several designated staff members. Typically, members of the Building Emergency Response Team (BERT) are selected for this function.

BONUS DOWNLOAD: Click here to download our Drill Evaluation Template


2. Not Strategically Placing Evaluators

Many times when I evaluate lockdown drills with school staff members, they typically congregate at the main entrance until it is time to start checking doors. Staging at one location does not provide does not allow evaluators the opportunity to observe how staff respond in the drill. Such things that are missed include:* Did staff clear the area immediately outside their room?

  • Did staff clear the area immediately outside their room?
  • How did staff manage students in large common areas such as gymnasiums?
  • Did students in transit immediately report to the closest room?
  • How quickly were hallways cleared?

Only by positioning evaluators at key locations around the building can you glean this type of important information that can help to identify problem areas and improve performance.


3. Not Using a Standardized Evaluation Form

It is not enough to simply watch a drill and make informal comments about it’s effectiveness. The District should develop a standardized evaluation form that is used at each school covering each component of the drill including:

  • Times including
    • Alarm time
    • Protocol completion time (locked down, evacuated etc)Other incidents encountered (i.e. fire alarm sounded during lockdown)
    • Other incidents encountered (i.e. fire alarm sounded during lockdown)Type of Drill (i.e. Lockdown, Lockout, Evacuation)
  • Type of Drill (i.e. Lockdown, Lockout, Evacuation)
  • Weather Conditions
  • Participants
  • Key Positions Filled By
  • Problems Encountered Checklist
  • General notes with locations of issues noted


4. Not Reviewing Evaluations Forms at the District Level

Every drill at each school should be evaluated at the District Level to identify commonalities and district-wide improvement opportunities. Typically these come in the form of procedural revisions, training, and communication/ infrastructure improvements.

By evaluating data at the District level, administration can see what works well in one building and apply it to others. Plus, uniformity can be achieved throughout the District. This is important when you consider staff and visitors may be in multiple buildings from time to time and consistency in procedures is critical.

Drills are essential to developing the capacity of staff and students to perform in a real emergency. If you are not learning something from every drill, then you are not drilling correctly. Proper evaluation of drills is key to this learning process and something that should be done consistently and uniformly throughout the District.

What challenges or effective techniques have you identified in your schools?

Learn more about effective lockdowns and the proven step-by-step blueprint to create dramatically Safer K-12 schools
without the stress, complexity and hassle.

Slash Portable Radios Costs by 90% Sun, 27 Mar 2016 21:46:08 +0000

It’s no secret that good communications is vitally important when managing an emergency. I routinely recommend to K-12 schools, the need to put portable radios in the hands of all:

  • building and district administrators
  • building and district emergency response teams
  • custodial and security staff
  • school monitors, aids and recess staff
  • physical education staff
  • any other staff that may not have access to traditional communications devices (phone, pa etc)

As is often the case with equipment and technology, cost has been an enormous barrier to acquiring enough units to go around….until now.

A growing number of emergency service agencies have been acquiring the BaoFeng UV-5R compact portable radio that can be purchased for a mere $28 from countless retail outlets including You can also order via a purchase order from Baofeng U.S. directly. The reviews thus far have been excellent. In fact, many emergency workers I spoke to actually purchased their own personal radios!

The unit features:

  • 128 channel programmable memory
  • built-in flashlight
  • 4 watts in the frequency range of 136-174 MHz and 400-480 MHz
  • a special VHF receive band from 65 – 108 MHz
  • a flexible antenna
  • Li-ion battery (7.4V 1800 mAh)
  • belt clip, wrist strap
  • AC adapter (8.4V 600ma) and drop-in charging tray

While this radio is not designed for heavy duty use, it appears to be an exceptional value for the limited wear and tear of school staff use. For an additional $9, you can even add a clip on speaker microphone, for improved hearing of radio transmissions in noisy areas such as cafeterias, playgrounds, gymnasiums or sporting events.

For an investment of just under $1000, there is no reason not to put portable in hands of each and every staff member to ensure exceptional communications and coordination in your schools.

Now for the bad news.  Programming the Baofeng is not an easy process.  It requires a special cable, software and all of your radio frequency information.  If you have no experience programming radios, you should carefully consider whether this radio is for you.  There are many videos online that demonstrate the programming process.  Here is a link to one of many videos on YouTube that covers the process.  Good Luck!

Disclaimer: As emergency management consultants, we have the responsibility to periodically provide impartial product and service recommendations. It is for that reason we do not accept compensation of any kind for product or service reviews. We also attempt to provide alternatives when possible to allow readers to make their own assessments.

Want to learn about more about essential K-12 safety equipment and the entire blueprint to create safer schools?  Check out our intensive one day workshop delivered right at your school!

Put Out the Fire – The Two Minute Guide Sun, 27 Mar 2016 21:00:49 +0000 Fire extinguishers are ALL OVER your school building. But if you have ever asked a staff member where the nearest one is to their workspace….. get ready for the blank look.

How about how to actually use one?

The vast majority of school personnel we question, have no idea how to operate a fire extinguisher, regardless of how simple to use and readily available they might be.

This video, produced by the Fire Extinguisher Manufacturer’s Association (FEMA), provides a quick overview of the easy to remember “P.A.S.S.” method of operation.

The P.A.S.S. method is simple:

  • Step one: PULL THE PIN: locate and pull the pin fire extinguisher
  • Step two: AIM– Aim the nozzle or hose or hose based on fire from the recommended safe distance. Typically 8 to 10 feet
  • Step three: SQUEEZE – squeeze the operating lever to discharge the fire extinguishing agent
  • Step four: SWEEP – starting at the recommended distance sweep the nozzle hose from side to side until the fire is out.

 The video is a great training aid to share with all staff via email or even at an upcoming faculty meeting. When the weather is cooperative, you can take things a giant step forward by having a maintenance staff member or local emergency responder provide a parking lot demo.

Knowing how to use a fire extinguisher is an essential requirement for all building personnel and a potentially life-saving skill.

To learn more about the Fire protocol and how to effectively prevent and manage critical incidents in your schools, be sure to check out our Safer K-12 Schools safety, security and emergency preparedness certification program.

[convertkit form=4848112]

The Biggest K-12 Training Mistake Sun, 27 Mar 2016 09:00:19 +0000 Nothing creates more liability for a District in the wake of crisis than failing to adequately train staff in how to manage emergencies in your schools. Tough questions will be asked of administrators regarding the type and frequency of training provided. To be on solid ground, the District must demonstrate their continuing commitment to responsible emergency preparedness and response.

So what is the biggest K-12 emergency training mistake?

Quite simply, it is not training at all.

A common predicament that some Districts still find themselves in, year after year.

A predicament that can have life-threatening consequences.

Your staff have signed on to be educators, not emergency managers. While their skill sets for teaching may be exceptional, the same is likely not true regarding their knowledge of how to effectively manage critical incidents within the school. To develop confidence and capability, emergency preparedness training is essential.

Typically, staff members will fall into one of the following categories, which should be utilized to develop your role specific training programs:

  • District Emergency Response Team (DERT)
  • School (Building) Emergency Response Team (SERT)
  • Greeters responsible for visitor management
  • Transportation Staff
  • General Staff (all other staff not listed above)

BONUS DOWNLOAD: Emergency Response Teams Checklist 

DERT Members

The District Emergency response team coordinates and oversees emergency management at the District level. In addition to an solid understanding of emergency management protocols, the DERT members should be well trained in:

  • The Incident Command System (ICS)
  • The Parent Reunification Process
  • Crisis Intervention
  • Media Relations

SERT Members

SERT are comprised of select staff members and are charged with planning for and managing emergencies at the school building level. SERT members will be called upon to help prevent and quickly manage a wide array of emergencies that may impact their individual schools. It is for this reason they require significant ongoing training in:

  • Threat Assessment & Mitigation
  • Emergency Management Response Protocols
  • Staff/Student Accountability


Greeters or main entrance security personnel are responsible for oversight of the schools single point of entry and all visitor management functions. They are likely to be involved in implementing one of the emergency management protocols (i.e. lockdown) should they observe a threat approaching. In addition to training in these protocols, greeters should also be trained in:

  • Conflict Resolutions
  • Principles of Custodial Law (i.e. orders of protections, custodial interference etc.)
  • Visitor Management Techniques

Transportation Staff

Transportation staff will likely be involved should an emergency occur in one of your schools. It is critical they understand the terminology and procedures each building utilizes in the event of an incident. A basic overview of emergency management protocols along with the following topics are recommended:

  • Recognizing Suspicious Activity (persons, packages etc)
  • Conflict Resolution
  • Managing Critical Incidents on Buses (Accidents, violence, hostages etc)

General Staff

Teachers, office staff, custodians, recess aides and all other general staff members play an integral part in both identification of a potential threat to the school population as well as effectively managing an emergency. Each and every staff member should receive periodic training in basic emergency management response protocols. They should have a solid knowledge of what to do in an emergency and clear expectations of how both the school and District will respond.

While updated technology and improved infrastructure can certainly strengthen a District’s ability to manage emergencies, how well staff are trained to react will be the true differentiator in potentially life and death situations. Not providing each district staff member with the appropriate type and amount of emergency management training is a recipe for failure.

NY Smart Schools Bond Act Wed, 10 Feb 2016 13:00:27 +0000 The NY Smart Schools Bond Act (SSBA) of 2014 authorized the issuance of $2 billion of general obligation bonds to finance improved educational technology and infrastructure to improve learning and opportunity for students throughout the State. The SSBA requires that a Review Board review and approve districts’ Smart Schools Investment Plans before any funds may be made available for the program.

The goal of the program is to “improve learning and opportunity for public and non-public school students by funding capital projects.” The projects include:

Installation of high-tech security features in school buildings and on school campuses, including but not limited to:

  • video surveillance
  • emergency notification systems
  • and physical access controls

Installation of high-speed broadband or wireless internet connectivity for schools and communities
Acquisition of learning technology equipment or facilities, including but not limited to:

  • interactive whiteboards
  • computer servers
  • desktop, laptop, and tablet computers

Construction, enhancement and modernization of educational facilities to accommodate pre-k programs and to provide instructional space to replace classroom trailers.

The SSBA provides a huge opportunity for both public and private schools to dramatically enhance safety and security in their school buildings. To assist you in determining how the program can best help your school, we have provided the necessary program contact information and links to resources below.

Smart Schools Program Questions
SED Office of Educational Management Services
(518) 474-6541 or email:

Capital Project Questions SED Facilities Planning
(518) 474-3906 or email:

For Additional Information

Useful Links


Why Many K-12 Emergency Plans are Dangerous Thu, 14 Jan 2016 02:24:06 +0000 Most schools do not have a sufficient emergency plan in place. At best, today’s schools have a generic emergency plan in place that does not meet the needs of their particular facility. In most cases, administrators at these schools cut and paste the emergency plan document offered on the New York state Project SAVE or other state websites. These boilerplate emergency plans then go through a fill-in-the-blanks process where the names of the school principal, assistant principal, and other administrators are added. As a result, the emergency plans of every school district look essentially the same and do not go into details specific to the school.

Using a boilerplate emergency plan for every school district presents two significant problems. In the first place, it is difficult to provide adequate emergency training from a generic emergency plan that does not offer specific details. Secondly, if an emergency situation should occur where individuals are hurt or property damage results, anyone who gets a hold of the school’s emergency plan would clearly find significant contradictions in the plan.

The boilerplate emergency plan states that certain emergency committees are in place, includes important contact information in case of an emergency, and offers specific emergency plan details. By using this boilerplate emergency plan for each and every school, the emergency needs of each school are not being met and the information provided within the plan are not typically accurate or up-to-date.

To resolve current emergency plan deficiencies, it is essential to create specific district-wide emergency plans. This will ensure that individual plans are specifically designed with each school district in mind. The result of such customized planning will be specific emergency plans that meets the requirements of Project SAVE (NY), meet local requirements, and offer important details specific to each school district. This will create a much safe environment for students and faculty members across all school districts.

Recess Staff Must Be Trained Wed, 14 Jan 2015 02:28:53 +0000 Whether the weather is warm or cold, kids need a break at school to release energy during recess. However, the current state of supervision, or lack thereof, during recess time has left most schools with an unsafe outdoor environment. In most cases, large groups of kids are supervised by one or two adults during recess. Adequate supervision becomes impossible with only one adult looking over 40 to 50 kids per adult. At the same time, the adults supervising recess are not typically trained to handle emergency situations.

With a large number of kids outdoors during recess, a variety of emergency situations may arise. For example, a noncustodial parent may realize that only two adults are watching over 100 children during recess. This allows the noncustodial parent to easily remove their child from the playground. If the untrained recess supervisor notices the situation, how will they respond? Will they leave the playground to seek help? In this case, only one adult would be left to supervise twice the amount of children they are accustomed to looking over, which may cause the emergency situation to escalate. Instead, there should be enough staff to oversee the recess area and each staff member should understand the step-by-step procedures they will need to take in any given situation.

The key to proper recess supervision is to ensure proper training and to provide an adequate ratio of children to supervisors while on the playground. Don’t wait until an emergency arises in order to determine how the situation will be handled. You can easily avoid making an emergency problem worse or can prevent emergencies altogether by properly training your recess staff on how to handle any number of possible situations. The simple solution to creating a safe recess environment is to give your recess staff the tools they need to do their job as proficiently as possible.

Establishing Visitor Protocols Wed, 14 Jan 2015 02:14:31 +0000 The lack of visitor protocol is a common problem in schools across all school districts. Most school administrators wrestle with how to properly establish visitor protocol, and every administration comes up with a different plan. This results in insufficient visitor protocol that puts the school at risk.

Some schools hire private contractors to greet visitors and to ensure proper sign in and sign out procedures. Others use their own staff including IAs (instructional assistants) and TAs (teacher assistants) to sit at the front desk. Hiring individuals who are untrained in visitor protocol offers little if any protection to your school. In most cases, there is a lack of compliancy when it comes to following the visitor protocol that the school has set forth.

There are many situations that could arise at the front desk when visitors arrive. Will the individuals sitting at the front desk know how to react to any given situation? Without adequate visitor protocol and compliance with this protocol, all efforts to maintain the security of a school will be wasted. For example, many schools spend a considerable amount of their budget on camera systems, card swipe systems, and other security systems. However, if standardized procedures are not set up at the front desk, these security measures will not offer much protection at all.

In an emergency situation, every second counts. Standardized visitor protocols will ensure that your staff is trained to handle any situation that may arise. This way, no matter who walks through the door or what situations occur, your front desk staff will know exactly what to do without question. This will guarantee that the situation is handled in the most efficient and suitable manner possible. With proper visitor protocol established at your school, you can rest assured that students, faculty, and your property will be much safer.