How to Build Your School Risk Assessment Checklist [+template]

Published on:
March 27, 2024
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Schools should be a safe space for children and young adults—but the reality is that anywhere where large numbers of people are gathered there’s an opportunity for risk. Not only are there risks associated with structural building safety, security, and accessibility, but in the United States we’ve seen gun violence shatter feelings of classroom safety.

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There have been 27 school shootings since the beginning of 2022 alone, and 119 similar incidents of violence since 2018. So it’s no wonder why concerns over gun safety and risk prevention are at an all time high. School leadership has had to find new ways to evaluate and identify potential risks to their facilities and campuses to assure student safety and try to prevent future incidents from occurring. 

US Deaths due to School Attacks by Year
US Deaths due to School Attacks by Year

With so many things to consider when it comes to student safety, it’s necessary for school faculty to be prepared with appropriate risk assessment information concerning the possibility of school violence.

They should also be made aware of strategies for how to respond to potential risks of all kinds to protect themselves and their students in case of an emergency. It’s a sad reality that students aren’t always safe in school, but with the right risk assessment plan you and your staff can help to fight potential threats and aid in overall prevention.

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What is a School Risk Assessment?

School risk assessment involves the evaluation and understanding of potential threats that could affect faculty, students, and visitors on school property. This can include assessments of property risks such as identification of fall hazards, poorly lit common spaces that could lead to issues, or unmonitored areas around the property that leave room for security threat. 

Risk assessment can also include behavioral observations of students and on-site faculty. For example, if a student is exhibiting peculiar or suspicious behavior during class or showing signs of violence it may be time to report the behavior to your security team, notify their parents, or bring in mental health professionals for further evaluation. 

School Risk Assessment Matrix
School Risk Assessment Matrix

Schools can utilize a risk assessment matrix to understand and identify the severity of potential threats. A risk assessment matrix provides a way for administrators to break down potential risks through a priority ranking system specific to their facility. This helps staff understand the severity level of individual threat types to quickly determine the appropriate response. 

Why is school risk prevention important?

Risk prevention helps ensure staff and students are safe and secure while they’re on the property. School risk prevention also helps to limit liability risks and aids in the creation of audit trails. Audit trails provide a historical record of how potential threats are being responded to and allow for a better understanding of what measures are actively being taken to ensure student safety. When students and staff are educated in risk prevention, everyone is made more aware of what to look out for to be more conscious of risk. This allows both students and staff to act more swiftly in the hopes of preventing problems before they ever occur.

Types of Safety Risks to Schools

School risk assessment should include an understanding of facility risks, student risks, intruder risks, and cyber risks to cover as many potential risks as possible. Facility risks include things like dangerous broken or damaged property, unsafe playground equipment, and malfunctioning alarms. These issues can cause a risk of injury, further property damage, and lawsuits, among other things. Facility risks are among some of the easiest to check for and help to prevent, because it mostly involves visual or minor technical evaluation. 

Types of School Safety Risks
Types of School Safety Risks

While facility risk refers to the potential risks facility property might present for students and staff, student risk assesses the potential risk one student might present to others. This includes looking out for threats of violence, individuals presenting unusual behavior, and the identification of weapons on school premises.

This can be a trickier area of risk assessment because it involves teachers, administrators, and other faculty potentially monitoring student behavior, and student behavior can be a difficult thing to adequately monitor and even understand. 

Identifying intruder risk focuses on security risks that could lead to a malicious intruder invading the property and encroaching on student safety.

This includes looking for things like unlocked entrances, poor surveillance, and lack of access control. All of these safety features help to ensure that only approved individuals have access to school property. 

Finally, cyber risk assessment looks to evaluate the potential of online threats to students, facilities, online systems, and school faculty. This includes reputation management as well as staying aware of and informed on student bullying. Additionally, it assesses overall cyber security to ensure school systems can’t be easily hacked. 

School Facility Risk Prevention

Rusting metals, sharp edges, faulty equipment, and fire hazards are just some of the risks that an improperly managed school facility poses to their students and staff. To ensure your facility is safe and secure, it’s important to stay on top of maintenance issues first and foremost. This is the easiest way to keep track of potential property risks. If you or your staff spots a maintenance problem, put a work order or maintenance request in quickly to ensure the issue can be taken care of to prevent further damage or injury. Conducting regular preventative maintenance checks and inspections can help you and your staff to spot issues before they become serious problems and keep facility risks from leading to liability issues. 

Beyond maintenance, facility risk prevention also includes security measures around access and general surveillance. Be sure to secure school perimeters and regularly identify who is allowed access to the property. This can be accomplished by conducting regular security walks of the school and inspecting entrances and exits to ensure they can’t be accessed by unauthorized individuals. 

Additionally, it’s important to block off access to areas that are under construction, dangerous, or simply off limits to students. This helps prevent potential liability issues from known areas of concern and keeps students from wandering into unauthorized zones. 

Student Risk Prevention

Bullying Prevention

School student risk prevention requires multiple layers of observation to identify risks and intervene appropriately. Schools must be vigilant to both physical and non-physical altercations that may escalate into more serious activity.

Student risk prevention seeks to address both the bullying and the risk of violent outburst. For example, schools must identify bullying both in person and online to stop escalation of action. In many cases, it is the students who were bullied who end up planning or committing violent actions against fellow classmates. Although a school cannot stop all bullying from occurring, staff should be aware of what is happening so that they can provide resources and discipline to end the negative interaction as well as to console the victimized party.

Dangerous Item Prevention

In some cases, schools may use security teams to prevent weapons, drugs and other dangerous items from entering school grounds. This may include bag checks, metal detectors, or visual threat assessments at the school entrance. You can consult with law enforcement professionals and psychological experts to educate yourself and your team on what to look out for to identify suspicious behavior and help build out a risk assessment matrix around determining concerning student activity.  

As you educate your team, encourage teacher reporting to further prioritize the identification of unusual or concerning behavior. When teachers are informed and understand how to report this information it helps everyone to know if and when to get psychological professionals, parents, or law enforcement involved. It also helps to encourage open dialogue and communication between faculty so that risky behavior is easier to identify over time. 

School Intruder Risk Prevention

Intruder risk prevention starts with security checks and access control. Ensuring that you know exactly who has access to what areas of the school and how access is gained is critical to securing school entrances. Conducting regular security walks and providing faculty with a clear checklist of things to look out for go a long way towards keeping intruder risks low, but you should also have policies and plans in place to provide staff with a clear protocol on what to do should a malicious intruder make their way onto the property. 

Make sure to spread important security information to your entire staff so that they can activate a plan of action quickly to keep students as safe as possible in the event of an emergency. Ensure that appropriate surveillance systems are in place to keep watch for threats, and conduct regular security checks to identify blind spots in surveillance.

School Cyber Risk Prevention

To prevent cyber risks from occurring on school computers, you can install security software that restricts access to particular sites and domain types. To further protect students using school devices, install screen monitoring software to track and log the sites these students are visiting while on school property. This helps catch and prevent cyberbullying from taking place using school computers and keeps students from accessing dangerous content. You can also create student rules and regulations around computer use and track who uses school equipment and when they use it to keep accurate logs so you have all the information should an issue occur. 

To protect school cyber systems and digital access, add password protocols for authorized users to make it more difficult for potential hackers to get into your administrative accounts. Ensuring that your administrators follow rules around account protection and safety keeps everyone’s information secure. 

How to build a school risk assessment checklist

One of the best ways you can track risk assessment initiatives and ensure school faculty is conducting adequate risk prevention inspection is by creating a risk assessment checklist. To create a school risk assessment checklist, first identify risk areas and risk factors that should be regularly evaluated. 

For example, for a property risk assessment checklist you might include: 

  • Ensuring that door locks are free of damage and fully functioning 
  • Checking that wet floor signs are used for drying areas 
  • Confirm that floors and surfaces are in good condition and free of damage
  • Verifying that fire extinguishers are accessible and aren’t expired
  • Ensuring that closed stairways are adequately monitored 
  • Confirming that all exits are clearly marked and identified
  • Checking that unassigned lockers are secured
  • Verifying that no trespassing signs are in place and easily identifiable

You can create checklists for each area of risk prevention you’d like to cover to help delegate work to the appropriate department. Your checklists should include actionable steps for risk prevention written in clear, accessible language. This way, anyone conducting a risk assessment check can easily walk through and check items off the list or mark off items that need to be addressed. 

Once you’ve established your risk assessment checklist, you can decide on a regular cadence for conducting these checks and allocate steps based on that cadence. From there, your team should be advised to observe, report, and take action when necessary. Then you can create requests around maintenance needs, professional involvement, or parent involvement. Creating checklists also helps you to keep logs of historical information around risk assessment so you can make improvements over time. 

Benefits of digitizing Risk Management Operations

To further improve your risk assessment initiatives, consider adopting a digital risk management solution. Customizable solutions like Xenia allow you to track, manage, and conduct risk assessment checks in one simple-to-use, easy-to-adopt application. Simply upload your checklists to Xenia and your team will be able to work through each checklist directly from their mobile devices. It’s simple to get started, easy to follow, and creates a digital paper track so everyone stays on the same page without creating more paperwork.  

Because utilizing this kind of digital solution creates an automatic audit trail for historical tracking, you’ll be able to utilize Xenia’s customizable analytics suite to filter for specific information and spot checklist patterns that can help you to monitor school asset and property health and prioritize maintenance needs. For example, if you notice the same door lock continues to have issues, you might find that the lock simply needs to be replaced rather than serviced by your technician or maintenance team. 

A solution like Xenia also allows for immediate communication between staff and departments. Xenia’s individual and group messaging features make it easy for your faculty to quickly address questions, comments, or concerns around risk prevention and safety management. You can use this to report suspicious behavior, distribute important announcements or updates, and quickly ask clarifying questions. So no matter where your staff is, you’re all able to reach one another with just a few taps of your fingers. 

You can also house protocols and policy documents in Xenia, so that school faculty always has access to risk prevention procedures as well as emergency protocols, creating a single source of truth for essential documentation. Should an emergency situation arise, your team has everything they need in the palm of their hands with Xenia. 

Want to learn more about what Xenia can do for you? Visit our website to learn more or schedule a demo anytime. We’d love to show you how Xenia can help keep your school safe, secure, and prepared. 

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