Accountability in School Emergencies

How to safely do a head count and communicate who’s where

The day-to-day operation of a school is a daunting task, and the detailed planning that sees schools react effectively during an emergency is part of that responsibility.

Accountability is a cornerstone of both education and security. This means knowing exactly who is on the premises during an emergency, including students, faculty, other personnel, or visitors. Equally important is how that information is gathered and relayed during a potential crisis. Here’s how to be prepared and stay informed during an emergency.

School responsibility in accountability – a summary

The New York State Guide to School Emergency Response Planning offers an in-depth example of proper preparation and procedure. To summarize, a common foundation for a response to all school emergencies consists of five functional annexes: A shelter-in-place, a hold-in-place, an evacuation, a lockout, and a lockdown.

These terms and their associated functions are designed to create a universal language and action plan that teachers and staff can understand. Clarity of communication in the event of a problem goes a long way toward protecting students and faculty. It’s coordination of security measures, faculty, staff, and emergency response personnel which form the core of successful accountability.

The State guide listed above is over 100 pages, but this resource provides a valuable overview.

The situations that demand accountability

The need for accountability arises from many possible situations:

  • Lockdowns/Active shooter scenarios
  • Code Reds
  • Fire and safety drills
  • Evacuations
  • Bomb threats

Taking control in any of these events means accounting for the entire student body and differentiating between a student or staff member who is missing, or one who is merely absent that day. Administrators need a reliable way to take stock, relay the facts, and stay informed. If a student is injured, for instance, quickly notifying proper medical personnel becomes a priority.

How to take action and achieve accountability

The right security technology can make accountability easier. Networked accountability software gives every teacher the ability to check their students in as safe via any electronic device, and add more as they arrive. Administrators along with emergency responders can be immediately contacted and react to a changing situation in real time. This helps all concerned decide who is safe, who’s yet to be checked in, and who may be in need of assistance.

If there is a legitimate threat, its nature can be communicated to the entire school. If students and faculty are confined to particular locations in a school for safety reasons, they won’t lose the ability to contact everyone around them. Vital, possibly lifesaving information can be received and transmitted swiftly and soundlessly.

Even drills demand a great deal of work, and the rapid exchange of information via accountability software can cut their time in half while increasing their effectiveness.

How to perfect your response

Software allows schools to set the exact date and time of drills. It also makes sure that only authorized and trusted people have access to data involving students. When everything is safe and back to normal – whether it’s a drill or a real emergency – the entire operation can be statistically analyzed. This data provides insight on how well the procedure went and if any changes need to be made.

Accountability software can also be fully integrated with your school’s existing SIS/SSO technologies to ensure seamless operation.

The tools for advanced accountability

Schools can add to their security plan by implementing electronic access control, digital video, and visitor management software. These measures identify and control all incoming parties. Legitimate visitors will be identified and allowed entry without a problem, while anyone suspicious can be detained before going any further. Wireless, electronic Wi-Fi locks which work in tandem with multi-functional ID cards can improve both accountability and security. These options are connected to the Cloud, allowing for dynamic reporting of potential events or alarms.

An entire campus can be surveyed via the strategic placement of cameras, externally and internally. These can be accessed remotely by staff and security administrators around the clock. The footage is, of course, retrievable in the event it’s needed.

In addition, remote monitoring is an effective way to make the most of surveillance: an off-site security team can keep close tabs on all activity at your school. This adds many more eyes to the task of locating stray students, endangered faculty, or suspicious individuals.

Further resources

Educators and administrators can keep up to date on school security via the New York’s Safe Schoolswebsite. The New York City Department of Education offers accountability resources for educators, parents and community members, and POM Technology offers our own free resource for school safety.


At Peace of Mind Technologies, we provide the best in security from first consultation to installation and maintenance. To discuss your needs, can call us at (212) 688-2767, email at, or complete our contact form for a free consultation.