PASS Guidelines: A Simplified Overview for School Leaders | 3Sixty Integrated

PASS School Safety Guidelines, PASS Guidelines, Partner Alliance for Safer Schools

In March 2023, The Partner Alliance for Safer Schools (PASS) unveiled its sixth edition of Safety and Security Guidelines for K-12 Schools. These guidelines provide a framework for identifying the most critical needs and cost-effective solutions to help school officials make informed decisions about security and safety.

The guidelines are based on research conducted by a team of experts and cover a wide range of topics. But with over 80 pages of content, it can take time to figure out where to start. To help with that, we’ve provided a simplified overview that school leaders can use as a reference to make the most of the PASS Guidelines.

Each section provides a brief overview of the topic and a list of best practices you can use to get started. Feel free to jump to any area that interests you and contact us with any questions.

Topics Covered

  • PASS Guidelines Overview
  • PASS Guidelines Scope 
  • Tier Definitions
  • Layers of Protection Overview
  • Policies and Procedures for School Safety and Security
  • PASS approach to Physical Security 
  • PASS approach to Communication
  • Conclusion

PASS Guidelines Overview

Considered the national standard for school safety, the PASS guidelines focus on physical security and life safety, offering recommendations for policies, procedures, equipment, and technology. While they may not cover every scenario, they provide a framework for assessing risks, creating safety plans, and conducting school safety assessments. 

The PASS Guidelines align with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s layered security approach, outlining four distinct layers for school facilities to prevent, detect, delay, and respond to threats. These layers encompass standard security features and customized elements, forming a comprehensive security strategy.

The sixth edition has been thoughtfully designed to adapt to the evolving security needs and challenges of K-12 schools, addressing emerging threats and concerns that may not have been as prominent in previous versions. This version also enhances user-friendliness, aiming to simplify security measures’ implementation while preserving their effectiveness.

PASS Guidelines Scope 

The PASS Guidelines concentrate on improving safety and security in school environments, but they do not cover all aspects of school safety.

It’s good to keep in mind that the primary emphasis of PASS Guidelines is on physical security measures and should not be the only source of guidance used to enhance safety and security in schools. For example, the PASS Guidelines operate under the assumption that all legal and regulatory obligations, whether at the state or federal level, are already met.

Guidelines regarding security personnel and School Resource Officers (SRO) are not addressed in PASS Guidelines (seek specialized resources from organizations like NASRO.) Additionally, topics such as mental health, behavioral threat assessment, or firearm policies are beyond the scope of the PASS Guidelines.

With that said, let’s get into the details of the PASS Guidelines.

Tier Definitions

The PASS Guidelines’ tiered safety approach allows lower-tier practices to serve as a foundation for gradually implementing more advanced levels of security showcased in higher-tiers, enabling officials to make informed decisions tailored to their specific situations and risk factors.

Here is a summary of the four tiers in the PASS Guidelines:

Tier 1: Baseline Practices and Obligations

This tier includes the basic security practices that all schools should implement, regardless of their resources or risk level. With minimal budgetary implications, these practices include things like having a school safety plan, conducting security assessments, and training staff and students on safety procedures.

Tier 2: Enhanced Practices

This tier includes additional security practices that schools can implement to improve their security posture. This can include implementing technologies like security cameras, access control systems, and perimeter security fencing.

Tier 3: Comprehensive Practices

This tier includes the most comprehensive security practices that schools can implement. These practices include things like having a school security team, using technology to monitor for and respond to threats, and conducting regular security drills.

Tier 4: Specialized Practices

This tier includes practices such as having a canine security team, using metal detectors, and having armed security guards. While not all schools may require these measures, they may be necessary based on their unique circumstances. 

Tiers help schools identify the most appropriate security measures for their needs and their budget. In addition to identifying the appropriate security measures, the PASS guidelines also advocate for a layered approach to security.

Layers of Protection Overview

A layered approach to security is crucial for addressing a wide range of threats. Each layer provides specific elements designed to deter, detect, delay, and respond to adversarial behaviors. This strategy is effective because if one layer is bypassed or breached, subsequent layers offer additional protection.

Here’s an overview of how the PASS layered approach works:

  • District Wide: This layer involves readiness for day-to-day emergencies and disasters. School districts that are well prepared for individual emergencies are more likely to be prepared for complex events like a community disaster or an active shooter incident.
  • Property Perimeter: This layer encompasses the area from the school property boundary to the parking lot, often including playgrounds and sporting fields accessible to the public after school hours. It serves as the initial line of defense against external threats, where visible security measures can be put in place. Clear boundaries and visible signage communicate rules and responsibilities to individuals entering the school property, enhancing security.
  • Parking Lot Perimeter: This is where staff, students, and visitors park their vehicles or arrive and depart by bus. Similar to the property perimeter, it should always have clear boundaries and defined areas. This is often the location where schools face the most safety issues, including falls, car accidents, dangerous driving, theft, vandalism, and assaults. 
  • Building Perimeter: The building perimeter layer focuses on the school grounds adjacent to the exterior of a building and includes the perimeter of the building itself, encompassing its exterior doors and windows. Securing this layer varies in complexity, particularly for middle and high schools with multiple buildings or open campuses. 
  • Classroom/Interior Perimeter: The classroom/interior perimeter layer encompasses a school’s entire interior, including classrooms, gymnasiums, cafeterias, and media centers. It serves as both the final defense against external threats and the primary protection against internal threats to the safety of students, staff, and visitors within the school.

Policies and Procedures for School Safety and Security

PASS Guidelines approach policies and procedures for school safety and security in a comprehensive manner. The guidelines recognize that there is no one-size-fits-all solution to school safety, and that different schools will have different needs and risk factors.

Despite varying district needs, having clear policies and procedures is necessary for everyone to use security technology effectively. They can also lower risks on their own, often without extra expenses. Foundational security policies and practices are in TIER 1 as essential best practices for each layer.

Personnel, including vigilant staff and students, constitute the most vital component of every security layer. To individuals with criminal intent, this vigilance serves as a potent deterrent. All students and staff must be empowered to take effective actions during emergencies. They should also receive relevant training and instructions concerning the safety processes, plans, technologies, and procedures specific to their school or district.

PASS Approach to Physical Security 

As previously mentioned, PASS Guidelines’ approach to physical security focuses on deterring, detecting, delaying, and responding to threats. This is based on the principle that no single security measure can be effective in preventing all threats. Instead, schools should implement a variety of security measures at different layers to protect themselves from a variety of threats.

The five elements of the PASS approach to physical security are:

  • Perimeter security: This layer includes security measures to protect the perimeter of the school, such as fences, gates, and security cameras.
  • Access control: Tactical security measures to control who has access to the school building and grounds, such as key cards, access codes, and visitor management systems.
  • Intrusion detection: Smart security measures to detect intruders, such as security cameras, motion detectors, and alarm systems.
  • Delay: Strong security measures to delay intruders, such as locked doors, shatterproof glass, and security barriers.
  • Response: Critical security measures to respond to threats, such as emergency response plans, crisis management plans, and school security personnel.

PASS Approach to Communication 

The PASS Guidelines recommend a three-tiered approach to enhance safety and security in school environments:

Tier 1
  • Utilize a district-wide two-way radio system, licensed under the FCC Universal Licensing System, to enable efficient communication of threats to key district staff, administrators, principals, security personnel, and transportation staff.
  • Implement Bi-Directional Amplifier (BDA) or Distributed Antenna Systems (DAS) to enhance reception for emergency personnel radio networks and mobile devices within buildings. Consult with radio systems integrators and local law enforcement and fire departments for proper implementation.
Tier 2
  • Employ a trunked radio system to organize users into different groups and facilitate communication on frequencies used by police, fire, EMS, and other first responders in the community.
Tier 3
  • Establish a district-wide unified mass notification system that can network with individual school facilities, enabling district-wide communication during emergencies. Explore available technologies to unify these communication systems.

Integrating K-12 School Security Systems 

In the dynamic field of school security, vigilance and proactivity are paramount to protect our educational institutions. The PASS guidelines are invaluable not only for school administrators but also for physical security integrators and all K-12 stakeholders aiming to enhance school security.

As we embark on the 2023-2024 school year, it’s our responsibility to prioritize the safety of our students and staff. Join us at 3Sixty Integrated and be part of the solution. Let’s work together to create a safer and more secure learning environment for future generations.

Don’t miss out on the latest safety and security insights. Download your copy of the updated PASS Safety and Security Guidelines for full details and the opportunity to stay ahead of the curve. Your students and staff deserve the best protection available!

3Sixty Integrated is a Texas-based systems integrator that specializes in the design, installation, and maintenance of physical security technology. We partner with organizations who want to streamline their electronic security infrastructure. Additionally, as a division of The Cook & Boardman Group, 3Sixty Integrated and our sister branches have a nationwide reach and over 65 years of experience offering total opening solutions, from custom doors, frames and hardware to security integration technology. Contact us today to discover how we can help your organization find the most effective security solutions.