How to Maximize the Value of School Safety Funding Available from Federal and State Sources

In recent years, federal and state agencies have allocated significant funds to combat the rising threat of violence and enhance emergency preparedness in K-12 schools nationwide.

February 14, 2024 — by Robert L. Evans, Director, K-12 Services, COSECURE

In recent years, federal and state agencies have allocated significant funds to combat the rising threat of violence and enhance emergency preparedness in K-12 schools nationwide. On the federal side, for example, the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act (BSCA) of 2022 appropriated $300 million over five years for the Bureau of Justice Assistance’s STOP School Violence school safety programs and for the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Office programs, including funding for school resource officers and physical security technology. BSCA also codified SchoolSafety.gov, an existing government website that offers free school safety planning and emergency preparedness resources and information about >$2 billion in funding opportunities for school safety and security. 

At the state level, there are many new initiatives focused on providing funding to schools to enhance their level of emergency preparedness and critical incident response. For example, New Hampshire recently awarded the third round (totaling $9.7 million) of its Security Action for Education grants, primarily focused on improvements in access control, emergency alerting, and surveillance. In 2022, Iowa allocated $100 million to school safety with an emphasis on emergency radios, threat monitoring systems, and active shooter training, funding this initiative with the American Rescue Plan Act and Emergency and Secondary Emergency Relief funds.

While federal and state agencies are willing to make significant investments in an effort to increase school safety, many schools, particularly larger school districts, find it challenging to prioritize their safety and security needs. For example, should they invest in an emergency communications system before door-locking mechanisms or a visitor management system? Should they hire more security personnel or upgrade their security cameras?

As a result, school districts are struggling to identify the appropriate security funding priorities to achieve their biggest return on investment. Moreover, in an environment with rapidly evolving threats and a large number of technological solutions designed to mitigate the risks associated with these threats, school leaders must also develop a strategic plan for their security systems that includes replacing outdated technology such as security cameras, unifying disparate systems, updating cybersecurity measures to meet evolving threats, and ongoing training of personnel to keep them educated and informed on how best to respond to the variety of critical incidents they may be exposed to.

To maximize the return on the funding opportunities available to them, school leaders must identify the greatest risks facing the school(s) and community by identifying known and potential threats and realizing vulnerabilities. This assessment allows school leaders to prioritize the most impactful safety and security equipment, technologies, personnel, and policies necessary to prevent and/or mitigate the effects of an event. Without this step, school leaders can fall into investing their funds into the most popular, latest technology and “loudest voice” that may have little to no impact on reducing their schools’ greatest risks.  

Conducting an assessment before investing in safety and security solutions is critical for ensuring that the available funding is spent in a manner that will work to provide a safe and open educational environment for all students, faculty, and staff. Therefore, some granting agencies are already requiring such assessments to be part of the grant-application process. It is likely that more granting agencies will follow suit and require these assessments in the future.

What is a Hazard Vulnerability Impact Assessment (HVIA)?

An HVIA helps identify the threats and vulnerabilities to which the school is most likely exposed and impacts the people, facilities, and operations. The assessment also identifies the current mitigation and response capacity for each type of event, resulting in a relative risk score for each type of event. With a clear operating picture and a prioritized set of risks, school leaders can focus their attention and make more informed decisions about resource allocation.

Who should participate in an HVIA?

Because the HVIA evaluates the needs of the school or entire district without a predetermined set of solutions in mind, it is essential that school leaders collaborate with local emergency management professionals or a third-party emergency preparedness expert to help facilitate this process.

While some school districts have emergency preparedness professionals on staff, many districts do not. Many have chosen to contract with a third-party vendor to conduct a holistic, 360-degree analysis of the district’s safety and security posture that can sometimes uncover contemporaneous threats and vulnerabilities that the district had not considered in the past.

Those conducting an HVIA, must seek input from a variety of stakeholders who have institutional knowledge about the district’s various exposures. These stakeholders include:

  •  School leadership and district leadership team, where applicable
  •  Local emergency management officials
  •  Emergency first responders
  • Community leaders, such as the town manager, city planner, or other city officials who have a historical perspective on emergencies, threats, and risks that the community has faced over the last 5-10 years.

What kinds of risks does the HVIA assess?

The HVIA strives to identify all the potential human-caused, technological, and natural hazards, facing the school and surrounding region, from severe weather, fires, power outages, and community-based concerns to active violence.

Once the full range of hazards has been identified, the assessment evaluates the likelihood of their occurrence and the severity of their potential outcome, forming the basis of critical decision-making.

How often should a school district conduct an HVIA?

The best practice is to revisit the HVIA on a yearly basis or when there is a significant change in the threat environment. The reason a yearly reassessment is recommended is that it can catch changes such as aging buildings, new technological investments, or changes in the curriculum (for example, a new set of chemistry experiments that create a greater fire hazard).

If your school district is considering an HVIA or is in need of additional school safety and emergency preparedness support, we encourage you to connect with Robert Evans, Vice President at COSECURE, who specializes in safety, security, and emergency preparedness for public, private, and independent K-12 schools and school districts. To learn more, please contact us at info@cosecure.com or (215) 655-7200. Rob is a retired Captain from the Vermont State Police. For the past ten years, he has reported directly to Vermont’s Secretary of Education and Commissioner of Public Safety and served as the state’s School Safety Liaison Officer. Rob is also a member of the National Security Advisory Board for the Secure Community Network, is a graduate of the FBI’s National Academy and is a standing member of Vermont’s Child Fatality Review Team.


COSECURE, an ancillary business of Cozen O'Connor, has been on the leading edge of security and risk management for over 20 years and is actively protecting global Fortune 100 companies, law and technology firms, and high net worth individuals.

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