About Michael Dorn

Michael Dorn serves as the Executive Director of Safe Havens International, a non-profit school safety center. The author of 27 books on school safety, Michael’s campus safety work has taken him to 11 countries over the past 34 years.

Emergency Evacuation Kits

                Emergency Evacuation Kit

I am pretty sure that one of the first magazine columns I wrote more than twenty years ago described the importance of emergency evacuation kits. I find these kits to be just as important today as they were then. I still find schools today that do not have these valuable emergency preparedness assets. Known by a variety of names, emergency evacuation kits contain the bare essential items and information school officials need to manage a crisis event when it is not possible to go back into their school or when structural damage occurs after occupants are sheltered.

 
Though I have seen a variety of commercial variants, the best quality emergency evacuation kits I have seen have all been assembled by school and public safety officials. I have also seen a variety of containers used including soft bags, plastic file boxes and even rolling trash cans. I have found that rolling backpacks with collapsible handles are perhaps the most practical option as they can easily be carried down a flight of stairs, over snow-covered ground or rolled on pavement for extended evacuations.

 
I have always suggested that clients consider having two duplicate kits stored in separate locations in the building with one kit being located away from the main office. This can be important during a hostage situation or tornado strike which affects the main office. As with other critical emergency preparedness measures, it is a good idea for backup personnel to be designated to get each kit out in an emergency. I also recommend that kits be taken outside during evacuation drills and taken to shelter areas when sheltering for severe weather or hazardous materials incidents.

 
Emergency evacuation kits by any name usually offer a good return on the investment of time and fiscal resources required to develop and maintain them.

Learning Lessons from School Safety Litigation

A few years back I wrote about viewing school safety through the lens of litigation. Between conference keynotes and working with school districts, I am still buried up to my neck in case files for civil actions against school and public safety officials. I am always busy with expert witness work and school safety litigation is time-consuming, but some cases have more complexity than others. This month’s collection of binders contains a series of complicated situations which demand close attention and painstaking examination.

While I decline the vast majority of cases I am contacted about, I do find that working some cases serves as a valuable learning experience. School safety incidents usually look quite different when you review 5 to 10 binders of documents along with security camera footage, audio from 911 calls and other evidence in contrast to viewing a 90-second blip on the news.

Though this month marks my 35th year in the field of campus safety, I must say that I still learn something new each year. I learn from respected colleagues, from reading books and articles, conducting school security assessments, and in general, we learn a great deal from our clients. However, some of the most invaluable lessons I have learned have come from my work in school safety litigation. Spending 40, 50, 60 or more hours reviewing a case file and preparing a report that is more thoroughly cited page per page than the average master’s thesis is always challenging and informative.

Carefully reviewing depositions, policies, manuals, training program power points, legal documents, camera footage, and other forms of evidence affords quite a different view than most other forms of work that I do. These experiences shape the way I view documentation, verbiage in policies, procedures, training programs and virtually every aspect of school safety. When I deliver a conference presentation, conduct assessments, or prepare written reports for clients, I am constantly considering how the words, concepts, and actions of my audience and clients would be perceived in the event of safety-related litigation.

Whether the case involves an active shooter incident, the rape of a student in their school, molestation of young children by school employees, death from sudden cardiac arrest or the death of a child crushed by a falling object in a classroom, each case offers valuable lessons on how the chances that serious injuries and deaths can be averted with effective safety practices.

This perspective also drives a more important thought process. If the strategies, documentation, and training processes are well-designed from a liability reduction standpoint, they are usually also more reliable in preventing and preparing for school crisis events. While not always the case, most of the cases I work involve a tragic ending. Using what I learn as each tragedy is dissected page by page and frame by frame, does create the silver linings in such dark clouds. While no school safety measures are foolproof, there are many opportunities and possibilities to prevent tragic events in schools. Application of the lessons to be learned from each tragedy can help to prevent many more devastating school crisis events so that we can avoid school safety litigation altogether.

school safety litigation case files

This is the initial case file for a single-victim case resulting in school safety litigation.

Navigate Prepared School Safety Seminars a Success

Navigate Prepare School Safety Seminar

We have had a busy couple of weeks presenting four high-impact scenario-based school safety seminars sponsored by Navigate Prepared. Last week, we presented at two seminars in Cincinnati and Chicago followed by seminars in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. The seminars consisted of a dynamic three – hour interactive session using more than thirty audio and video school crisis scenarios. After a lunch provided by Navigate Prepared, each group was split into two groups with one group participating in a walk-through of the facility to discuss ways to enhance safety, security, school climate and emergency preparedness while the second group participated in an interactive discussion and demonstration of the Navigate Prepared system. After one hour, the two groups switched places and the process repeated. We had excellent feedback on this approach at a Navigate Prepared event in Ohio last year and the feedback was very positive for all four of this year’s seminars.

More Seminars to Come

We had excellent participation from school, law enforcement and fire service personnel with an impressive number of school superintendents making time to attend the events. I had the opportunity to see participants from previous projects and to make new acquaintances. I also had the opportunity to spend a good bit of time visiting with Navigate Prepared personnel riding with them between events. Due to the positive feedback, Navigate Prepared is planning a series of similar seminars for the fall and I am looking forward to these events.

Navigate Prepared School Crisis Scenarios

As we appreciate the opportunity to spread our messages of school safety to so many people through these seminars, the Safe Havens International team is scripting, recording and editing a dozen new school audio crisis scenarios for use by Navigate Prepared and their clients as a free value-added service. These should be finished in the next week or so and we are excited to see Navigate Prepared make them available to school and public safety officials. In 35 years working in the field, I have never seen a tool that is more effective in helping school officials train, practice and evaluate their plans, procedures and technology solutions as the scenarios we have been developing over the past decade.

I feel honored to be able to work with the Navigate Prepared team and the many impressive people I had the opportunity to meet in this four-city tour. I am looking forward to the next multi-state tour in the fall.

To stay informed about audio scenarios and upcoming fall Safety Summit locations visit: http://www.navigateprepared.com/safety-summits/