Ohio Homeland Security offers free threat assessment for schools

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Every three years, Ohio schools are required by law to submit a safety plan to the Ohio Department of Education. Many of those schools are now up for renewal and in the process of reviewing those plans.

Some schools are also choosing to take advantage of a free threat assessment program offered by the Ohio Department of Public Safety’s Center for P-20 Safety and Security.

“We come out to the school at the superintendent’s request and we will walk the building, exterior and interior, and look at what security measures they have in place and what vulnerabilities might exist,” says Jason Bowman, an infrastructure protection manager at Ohio Homeland Security.

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Bowman says the program will suggest options for schools to consider, which are not requirements. The free resource is simply another set of eyes that are not normally there that you’ve become accustomed to.

New Albany Plain Local Schools Superintendent Michael Sawyers believes the threat assessment is a win-win for everyone.

“It gives us information, we have nothing but to learn from it,” says Sawyers, who believes in looking at new ways to enhance the safety of the 5,000 students in his school district.

“We have Safe School Helpline,” Sawyers explains. “It’s a wonderful partnership, an anonymous reporting tool that parents can use through the web or on the phone through the app."

Bowman believes there are three security measures every school district in Ohio should have as a baseline: access control to buildings, security cameras, and safety film to make it harder to break glass.

He says schools can level up their security with the addition of vestibules and bollards placed in front of school entrances. But he knows nothing is 100 percent.

“I don’t think there is a magic wand, unfortunately,” says Bowman. “We do everything we can to minimize the risk. We can never eliminate the risk.”