By Nick Mirisis, Senior Director of Marketing, Dude Solutions
With Election Day just days away, schools across the country are preparing to open their doors to the public to operate as polling locations. While many schools regularly cancel classes for elections, there are also many schools that remain open for students and faculty. Any time the school is open to the public during school hours, extra precautions/preparations should be taken. However, given the high emotion around this particular election, school administrators, as well as school facility and security staff, county election officials, law enforcement and school resource officers need to be in sync and well prepared in the event of an unplanned event.
First and foremost, communication before Election Day is key, including clearly communicating plans and procedures with faculty and students so they understand campus access maps, adapted schedules and movement restrictions throughout the day. This is also an opportunity to review all security and communication processes and procedures and revisit unique election/polling-specific plans.
We spoke with Chris Joffe, CEO of Joffe Emergency Services, a SchoolDude and CrisisManager partner, to address three top emergency scenarios schools should be prepared for during polling: an unwarranted visitor on campus, political solicitors or civil unrest. Below are key tips from Joffe:
Unwarranted Visitor on Campus
Opening a school campus up for public elections means there is a risk of having a voter who may miss an exit door or enter a closed area of campus. While these can be accidental or inadvertent mistakes, it is important that faculty and staff in the building are prepared to approach and redirect these visitors and understand the protocols for notifying administration and/or security for a lockdown if needed.
- Have your policies clearly known by all employees, students, and families including the nuances between secure campus, shelter in place and lockdown.
- Consider additional appropriate signage campus wide. This will help mitigate voters from entering space that is restricted to students and faculty.
- Review and practice movement restriction and lockdown procedures. This will help ensure keen understanding among faculty and students.
- Understand priority communication tools and methods to ensure appropriate but swift remedies.
Anyone on school property on polling day needs to have a purpose, e.g., a voter, a student, a teacher, so the school administration and security team should ensure that people on campus and within a pre-determined radius belong there. For any solicitors that do not follow the below protocols, ensure there is a plan in place for an administrator or security staff member to support them leaving or, if needed, issue a lockdown. Other ways to help mitigate solicitors are to have a check-in process or administrator greeting people upon entry.
- Follow and enforce Freedom of Speech and polling location laws that say solicitors can not be within 100’ of a polling location and there is no photography or video recording within 100’ of polling place.
- Also enforce local laws regarding loitering around school campuses, smoking, drugs, and weapons.
Being prepared for any potential scenario is a security tenet, and this highly charged election could mean a number of realities. It is prudent to be prepared for any potential risks of civil unrest or even riots on Election Day and the days following the election. It is also helpful to have an understanding of your community, any history of civil unrest and, in the event of civil unrest, deciding whether it makes sense to stay on school property or leave. We hope none resort to this but it is important to think about.
In the event of civil unrest it is all about action. Have plans for:
- School evacuations during emergencies
- Campus and school role in the event of civil unrest
- Business Continuity - understanding the resources that can be made available to you in emergencies.
While the United States’ 58th presidential election stands to be one of the most anticipated and dramatic in history, school security and safety is a top priority. As schools prepare to operate as polling locations, this is an opportunity to revisit emergency protocols and update emergency plans for the safety of students and school staff.