I was asked by Utica National Insurance to present information on how schools can select qualified vendors at competitive prices after a number of their clients paid rather high fees for school security assessment projects. The company was also concerned that some of the firms lacked a track record working with K12 schools. We felt that some of the information I covered in my keynote at the conference might prove to be useful to others.
We were recently selected to perform a school safety, security, climate, culture and emergency preparedness assessment project for about $40,000. Though the client scored our proposal as more comprehensive and told us that we have performed far more assessment projects than the other vendors, the next lowest bid came in at about $130,000 above ours.
School security experts are conducting more school security experts than any time in the past decade. As school officials try to move rapidly to evaluate their approaches to school security, they can easily move too quickly, compromising quality and wasting large amounts of precious budget resources. If they rush too much, they can also create increased exposure to civil liability. Careful research and a proper bid process can cut the cost of a security assessment project for a public, private or independent school organization by as much as 70% while improving quality.
Having assisted school officials as both a government analyst conducting school security assessments at no cost to schools as well as through a non-profit center that does so on a low-cost basis, I have a series of tips that can help school officials cut costs while reducing the cost of school security assessments by as much as 70% while reducing exposure to civil liability:
- Seek competitive bids from numerous vendors. A widely circulated bid combined with contacting 15 to 20 vendors via a thorough internet search should yield a number of competitive bids.
- Allow vendors at least four weeks to respond to your bid solicitation. Any qualified vendor in the country should be working on at least a dozen school security assessment projects and even the largest firms can prepare a better bid if you afford them ample time.
- Weight cost for at least 25% of your scoring criteria but not more than 50%. 25 to 30% weighting should create tough competition without the increased exposure to civil liability that too much emphasis on cost can create should you experience a safety incident after your assessment.
- Require six to twelve references for school security assessment projects and attempt to check all references before signing a contract. There are many vendors who can provide a dozen or more references without difficulty.
- Require bidders to disclose any open records requests, lawsuits by or against clients and termination of projects by clients. This step can be extremely revealing.
- Clearly state what you would like vendors to assess and provide vendors an opportunity to ask questions for clarification.
These simple steps can help you dramatically reduce the cost of school security assessments while improving quality and preventing trouble with poor quality vendors.