An Open Forum

July 1, 2008
Blogs provide outlet for communication about schools and security.

The latest outlet of communication on the Internet consists of blogs or, “modern online diaries.” Readers can now use blogs to respond to the news they read — posting comments, discussing through message boards, taking polls and e-mailing responses.

Related to school security, blogs give readers the opportunity to learn and participate in news about school security in real-time.

Brad Spicer is founder of SafePlans, a risk management consulting firm, and runs SafePlans' School Safety News Blog and Map. The site's School Safety Incidents Map provides situational awareness through the posting of school safety-related incidents and success stories. Icons on the map indicate where security situations from pre-K to colleges have happened, including incidents involving intruders, need for lockdown, school shootings, IED or bomb threats, fire evacuation, damage to schools from weather or bus accidents.

The blog, aimed at the K-12 market, was designed to educate stakeholders on best practices and to inform them on the need for better school security. “There are some school administrators and parents who understand the need for improved school safety,” Spicer says. “But there are also those who are in denial — and this is for them too.”

To educate stakeholders, the blog analyzes school safety hazards and real-world incidents while illustrating how improved planning, training, tactics and/or technology can be implemented.

Spicer updates the blog two to three times a week by posting entries that focus on a news item (“Bomb Detonates at California High School”) or a security subject (“Secondary Attacks and Their Countermeasures”). He follows it with knowledge on the subject, as well as personal thoughts and measures that he thinks should be taken to avoid the situation.

“We don't want people to overreact [with fear], but knowledge is power, and they need to be aware of what's going on and what can be done.”

Bret Rachlin, director of marketing for Wren Solutions, (a provider of network video systems) says Wren's network video in education blog was launched as a way to establish the company in the education market while providing a forum for school safety and security issues and to include network video. “We did research and didn't find anywhere that school administrators could collaborate about school safety and security issues,” Rachlin says. “There was a lack of cohesive information out there.”

Wren's blog gives commentary on school security issues. “We thought, instead of preaching, we should comment on articles that we post and ask questions about how the event was handled. What did the school have for security or funding?” he asks. “We want to foster dialogue so that schools and the people that run them investigate what their schools would have done if they were put in that situation.”

Another blog with a rising readership is the Hackett Security Blog from Hackett Security. Instead of writing informational entries, the blog simply posts pre-written articles that cover major movements and specific events from the industry. Chris Maples with Hackett Security says they try to post entries before the curve. “It's not so much about our opinion. We focus on what's going on around us, and we disperse news for informational purposes,” Maples says.

Roughly 30-40 percent of posts on are school-oriented, according to Maples, because it is such a hot topic. “Schools are a symbol of our future. Readers, especially parents, want to know these things.”

Not crossing a line

There are lines that school security blogs will not cross. For example, Spicer says SafePlan blog entries will not include ongoing issues that might expose a specific school to a risk as an operational security concern and to not put anyone in danger. “For example, if school ‘X’ in ‘Y’ city doesn't lock its doors, we would talk about the importance of locking doors, but we wouldn't expose the school directly,” Spicer says.

Rachlin says although they will cover all school safety topics, they are still sensitive to being critical of how a school handled a certain situation. “I won't do that since I don't know all the facts. But I will raise questions to talk about areas of where it's possible they didn't look into a certain solution,” he says.

“Educational security constantly needs tweaking because with each new school year there's a whole new group of students,” Rachlin says. “Having a blog in which someone writes about insight is another opportunity for people to think about what they are doing to avoid situations other schools face. If our blog does its job, school administrators will read it and think about what they are doing for their school.”

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