American Time School Blog

Enterprise Risk Management for Schools

Posted by Chris Dorn, Senior Analyst, Safe Havens International on Sep 19, 2019 12:13:42 PM

risk management for schools

(Part 1 of a 4 part blog series)

Part 2: Serving Those with Access and Functional Needs in an Emergency
Part 3: Emergency Communications: The Deciding Factor in Almost any Crisis
Part 4: Are Your Special Programs Protected?

One of the most exciting new developments we have seen in school safety in the last few years is not any new technology, but rather a conceptual approach that is relatively new to education. The concept of Enterprise Risk Management (ERM) is the result of the evolution of insurance and risk management over time. The ERM model is broader than traditional risk management, however, and attempts to unify risk management efforts across the entire organization. 

One challenge many school organizations have is the coordination of safety and security resources. Typically, these have been spread across various departments. For example, the purchase of a security camera might require input and approval from the security department, facilities, finance, human resources, legal, and the teacher’s union. This is just one aspect of the challenge of coordinating resources across departments. Hiring, chain of command, and a number of other factors come into play as well. These problems only intensify as the size of the organization grows. This can be a challenge even in a small school district with just a few schools. When that number increases to dozens or hundreds of school sites, it can be a challenge just to quantify the problem. 

The concept of Enterprise Risk Management has been around for some time in the private sector. Put simply, ERM is an operational philosophy that attempts to coordinate resources across departments and layers of the organization. Using the example of a security camera, an ERM coordinator would have the access and authority to work with each department to determine need and decide on a solution and implementation. In addition to improving time efficiency, this can have a dramatic effect on the quality of deployment of these resources. A coordinated technology purchase avoids many of the common pitfalls that we see in deployment of security technologies. For example, a camera purchase could be a complete waste if the hardware does not integrate into existing software and networks, or if it is installed in such a way that it is not useful for staff viewing the camera. If the technical side of the work is done properly but legal and HR are not consulted, the equipment may be unusable because of privacy concerns and requirements.

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One of the first school districts in the United States to embrace the ERM approach is Broward County Public Schools (BCPS), Florida. After the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida, the BCPS sought ways to dramatically improve safety and security. Safe Havens International was selected to work with the district and has performed multiple assessments of each campus in the district along with assistance in updating the district’s emergency plans and revising the organizational approach to safety. Since our initial assessment, the BCPS has made dramatic changes across the district. Many of these focus on specific hardware upgrades. One of the most important has been an aggressive shift towards a coordinated approach to safety using the ERM model. This has included the creation of new departments and positions while leveraging existing organizational structures and processes. 

This transition has better allowed the District to manage implementation of security recommendations along with all the other ongoing processes that are required to keep the District running. For example, one key finding from the District assessment was that upgrades in communications were needed. This infrastructure upgrade has implications for safety, but is also a critical component of daily operations. 

By identifying risk and using an ERM lens to evaluate major decisions such as the purchase of new technology or hardware, an organization can often find ways to address multiple needs in a coordinated fashion. Rather than the security department seeking equipment to provide emergency communications while the facilities department updates building intercom systems separately, there may be a solution that serves both. We have seen this type of dual use solution with intercom systems, classroom audio and amplification systems and other daily use equipment such as clocks. (See the importance of this feature in the blog “Emergency Communications”).

ERM is estimated to take approximately 3 to 5 years to implement, depending on the resources available to the organization and the level of dedication to the process. Key characteristics of ERM include:

  • The ERM function is at a senior staff level reporting directly to leadership
  • An annual strategic plan that identifies risk and strategies to address risk
  • Risk is managed across the organization, and an organization-wide approach to developing strategies to address risk is used.
  • An ERM lens is used to evaluate new programs and initiatives
  • A broad definition and wide range of risks are considered, including strategic, financial, operational and reputational.

More information on Enterprise Risk Management is available in the excellent journal article: “Enterprise Risk Management in the Great City Schools” (2016).

Link: https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED569197.pdf 

This blog is part of a series by guest author Chris Dorn. Chris is a co-founder of Safe Havens International (SHI), the world’s largest non-profit school safety center. Founded in 2001, SHI works to create sustainable solutions for schools working on limited budgets and with limited available staff resources for safety. Chris has trained or provided assistance to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Department of Homeland Security, the International Associate of Chiefs of Police, the Israeli National Police, and dozens of state departments of education and law enforcement agencies. SHI has provided post-incident assistance for over 300 school crisis events, including 12 active assailant/targeted acts of violence in schools. More information on Safe Havens, including their free resources and groundbreaking research, is available at www.SafeHavensInternational.org.

Topics: School Clock Systems, News, EverAlert, Safe Havens International

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