One thing I have noticed in reviewing bid solicitations for many school safety assessment projects over the years is that the requests for proposals (RFP’s) for these projects are almost always different from one another. One reason that almost no two RFP’s are alike is that each client has its own needs and focus. Another reason they vary so much is that there are so many different approaches to conducting assessments for schools.
Even the terminology for the assessments varies widely. For example, here are some of the more common descriptors used for these processes:
• School security assessment
• School security audit
• School safety assessment
• School safety audit
• School hazard and vulnerability assessment
• School risk assessment
• School hazard hunt
• School tactical site survey
• School safety, security, climate, culture and emergency preparedness assessment
• Student supervision assessment
• School emergency preparedness assessment
This list could easily run to a full page if we listed all of the terms we have seen in RFP’s. While there is no problem with the use of any of these terms, it is important to understand that these terms without a proper scope of work all mean different things. For example, an “audit” implies a different approach to and “assessment” and a school security assessment will be taken by many vendors to exclude general safety issues and does not cover issues relating to school climate, culture or emergency preparedness. Taking the time to determine what aspects relating to school safety need to be evaluated before writing an RFP can go a long way to a more effective and practical bid process.
For example, one attendee to a state – wide training program on school safety evaluation and assessment related that her district had paid a consultant an enormous sum of money to assess school in her district. Though the consultant presented himself as one of the nation’s top experts, he only spent about forty five minutes in each school and delivered very basic reports in contrast with the processes we were outlining in the training session. The district had tried to terminate the contract with the consultant due to numerous complaints that had been received by district staff and area public safety personnel but the consultant had threatened to litigate the district. The district ended up attending a training session on the coordination of school safety assessments and re-doing all of the assessments themselves. In hindsight, the district realized that a failure to properly define the scope of work had helped contribute to this unpleasant situation.
A little bit of research prior to releasing a bid solicitation can help to make sure that the services that are desired match those that are delivered, reduce the costs of the services and ensure that safety is enhanced by the process.