"Relationships between schools and their public safety partners cannot start when they first meet in the middle of a parking lot on a bomb threat," says Ken Trump, president of National School Safety and Security Services.
Emergency preparedness planning is the message, and Trump will be preaching it loud and clear at this year's Enforcement Expo in Cleveland, from Wednesday, July 11 to Thursday, July 12. Trump will be presenting a 3-hour seminar Wednesday at the show, from 9 a.m. to noon.
With more than 20 years experience in the school safety profession, Trump has aided school and public safety personnel in more than 45 states in preparing for the worst.
The goal at Enforcement Expo, he says, is to talk about many of the practical logistical issues facing schools and their public safety partners, including law enforcement, fire, EMS and other city entities.
In October 2006, Trump was invited to, and attended, the White House Conference on School Safety led by the President, First Lady, attorney general, and secretary of education. In May of 1999, he testified before the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions on school safety.
He also was selected in 2006 as chairman of the prevention committee, executive board member, and a project management team member for the Comprehensive Anti-Gang Initiative (CAGI) project administered by the Office of the United States Attorney of Northern Ohio in Cleveland, Ohio.
Cleveland was one of six cities in the nation selected by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, U.S. Department of Justice, to receive $2.5 million to address gangs through a model strategy of prevention, law enforcement and community re-entry model.
"Schools are very unique entities and there are a lot of issues to consider when you have 1,000, 2,000 or even 3,000 kids in a school with a limited number of personnel," says Trump. "Safety officials need to know facility and building layout ahead of time."
The impact of today's technology in the hands of students, he explains, also can be a problem at a crisis scene. "Kids on cell phones may impact emergency response with rumors," says Trump.
What the other expects
Having certain expectations of a person or situation can sometimes be a let down. In the law enforcement field, knowing what the other expects is essential to that not happening. And, "let downs" because of mismatched expectations, especially in regards to school safety, are not a matter to be taken lightly.
"The biggest challenge in building relationships," says Trump, "is the huge gap in expectations — understanding how different organizations work and what they would do in an emergency. Bridging that has been and always will be a challenge."
School administrators, he explains, may assume that dialing 911 will send a large amount of officers running. Depending on the size of a jurisdiction, however, and the shift schedule, a half-dozen may be all that arrive on scene initially, notes Trump.
Another issue is the parental involvement. "School officials often think police will handle parents, but with hundreds of parents on scene in a lockdown, that's just not going to happen," he says.
On the other side, law enforcement may assume a custodial employee will be available to give vital floor plan and facility information, and also that administrators are going to know to lock down the school rather than evacuate. "That's not always the case," Trump says. "They may not be educated."
Bring it to the table
In today's race for higher test scores, schools are falling short on time. Days are filled to the brim. "The challenge today is one of time, if not more than money," says this educator.
Taking time to sit down and work out emergency preparedness plans, on paper, needs to be done now, Trump explains. He encourages public safety officials and schools to work cooperatively in developing these plans.
Since time is running low for all parties involved, he recommends tabletop exercises instead of, full-scale drills. "While they're educational and informative," Trump says of large drills, "it just isn't an administrative or political reality in many schools."
Tabletops provide a low-stress, effective way of examining the roles and expectations of those involved in school safety. Most are done in half- and full-day sessions.
Building these relationships, in addition to teaching students "reading, writing and arithmetic" is necessary to ensure the best possible response if and when a crisis occurs. Schools and law enforcement must learn to work together.
"You can't change the climate until you change the conversation," says Trump.