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.

Free Safe and Welcoming Schools Webinar

Free Safe Schools Webinar

I will be delivering a free webinar sponsored by my editors at School Planning and Management Magazine this Thursday at 1:00 P.M. EST. The session will address crime prevention through environmental design concepts that can be used to create warm and caring school climates even when dramatically increasing physical security measures. As many schools increase security measures due to concerns of active shooter, active killer and terrorist attacks, it is extremely important to make students, staff, parents and other members of the school community feel welcome and connected.

This session will feature visual examples from our work with schools across the United States, Vietnam, India and Trinidad – Tobago to show how important the concept of territoriality is in light of high levels of fear of extreme violence. Tips on improving physical security and improved survivability for mass casualty incidents will be provided as well.

If you can spare an hour this Thursday, we would love to have you participate.

To register for this free school safety webinar, visit:

SPM-WP SPM_062016_SafeSchoolWebinarhttps://webspm.com/webcasts/2016/07/safety-security.aspx?pc=sp&partnerref=sp

Security Assessments & Jewish Schools

private school safety

Creating safety while still maintaining a positive environment is a challenge for all schools, public or private, anywhere in the world.

Safety Measures in Jewish Schools

Russell Bentley and I had the opportunity to work with another Jewish day school last week.  The project involved helping the school and their architectural firm enhance safety, security and emergency preparedness during a renovation of one of the school’s campuses. Russell’s advanced expertise in school security hardware and school security technologies makes is a pleasure to work with him on these types of projects. We were both deeply impressed with the members of the school’s security force, facilities personnel, head of school and members of the school’s safety team.   Like other Jewish schools we have assessed this year, we found the school safety team at this school to be a true joy to work with.

The school has already implemented many excellent security upgrades based on two previous security assessments, and were very receptive to some of the more advanced security and emergency preparedness concepts we covered. It is always an honor and a pleasure to work with such dedicated, caring and competent advocates for children, especially when we find good practices in place when first working with a new client.

Increased risk of terrorism creates challenges for all schools

With the significantly increased risk of terrorism in the United States, the Jewish school leaders we have worked with are particularly sensitive to this type of risk. The risk of school terrorism is remote, yet Jewish schools are among the types of schools that carry a unique inherent risk exposure relating to terrorism. The same would be true for schools that serve the children of diplomats, or other religious schools that face harassment and could serve as a target for a dangerous individual planning a symbolic attack. We have found that most of these “high risk” (quotes used because the risk is still statistically low) schools are also aware that turning their campuses into fortresses is not necessarily an effective way to achieve a reasonably secure environment.   As an Israeli police commander told me when I went to Israel for anti-terrorism training – terrorists score a win as soon as schools are no longer schools due to overwhelming security measures.   We cannot let terrorists or other violent people cause us to deny children the opportunity to attend a fun and enjoyable school experience. All schools must seek a good balance of effective security and a positive, caring environment.

Like public, charter, military and independent schools, Jewish schools have their own unique needs and challenges. Like all schools, the security threats Jewish schools face are constantly changing. Fortunately, there are many ways to meet these unfortunate realities without sacrificing their uniqueness and maintaining a pleasant atmosphere. My next security assessment is also for a Jewish day school and I am very much looking forward to this opportunity as well.

Use Pre-Mortem Exercises to Test School Safety

Pre-mortem exercises can be used to identify gaps in prevention strategies as well as to identify potential problems with emergency preparedness approaches

Pre-mortem exercises can be used to identify gaps in prevention strategies as well as to identify potential problems with emergency preparedness approaches

Pre-Mortem Exercises in School Safety

Over the years, I have become a big fan of the work of Dr. Gary Klein. An excellent writer, he does a great job of using stories to make his points stick. Better known in the fire service than in the other public safety disciplines, Dr. Klein has done a good bit of research on how people make what he refers to as high-stakes decisions. He has some especially helpful observations about how we can make better life and death decisions when faced with limited time and information.

One concept that I picked up from Dr. Klein’s excellent books is known as a pre-mortem exercise. I will attempt to do justice in boiling down the concept to fit the length of a blog. Dr. Klein maintains that the pre-mortem exercise can be used to test the concepts organizations use in an effort to identify flaws before something goes wrong. While we commonly think in terms of learning important lessons from a post-mortem once something has gone wrong, this concept uses a hypothetical scenario which presumes that our approach has failed. By assembling a team of people who are familiar with how the organization prevents and responds to problems, the team can often use their intimate knowledge to figure out why such a failure would occur. It is important that all participants in the activity are charged with assuming that the failure has taken place already. This is a critical point as this approach helps prevent people from claiming that a failure could not occur. Once tasked in this manner, participants are asked to figure out any vulnerabilities in the approach that could allow such a failure to occur.

Learn Your School Security Weaknesses Before an Incident Occurs

I believe that pre-mortem exercises can be used to identify gaps in prevention strategies as well as to identify potential problems with emergency preparedness approaches. For example, a school threat assessment and management team could be given a hypothetical scenario where an individual carries out a school shooting after having been evaluated by the team. A multidisciplinary crisis team could then participate in a separate pre-mortem exercise where they are told to assume that when this shooting occurred, the organization’s crisis plans failed badly.

I agree with Dr. Klein’s assertions that organizations that use pre-mortem exercises are less likely to experience the failures that they simulate. Anyone who has been through a post-mortem review of an incident involving one or more fatalities can attest that even the most difficult pre-mortem exercise would be preferable to the difficult experience of a fatal incident.