School Safety Is Top Priority in Macomb County

Two Macomb experts explain how the county works to keep kids safe in schools and how students, staff and teachers can potentially stop violence before it happens.

Backpacks, permission slips, lunchboxes — parents sending kids off to school each morning have a lot to think about. One worry parents shouldn’t have is about safety in their child’s school. In Macomb County, parents can feel confident that school safety is the No.1 priority — for school officials and for the county.

In fact, the Macomb Intermediate School District, local public safety and Macomb County officials have been working together for more than 20 years to ensure that Macomb County Schools are safe, according to Brandon Lewis, Director of Macomb County Emergency Management and Communications. And, as school safety situations have evolved, Macomb County has taken action.

“In 2018, we hired three school safety coordinators using funding from a grant from the U.S. Department of Justice to assist Macomb County schools with safety planning,” Lewis explains. “Among the initiatives supported by our school safety section is the development of a standardized risk and vulnerability assessment, which are based on nationally accepted best practices.”

When initial grant funding expired, Macomb County recognized the need to proactively support its 21 public school districts and private schools. The county made the department a permanent part of the government structure. Having a team dedicated to ongoing school safety is very important, says Jim Burke, School Safety Coordinator with Macomb County Emergency Management and Communications.

“I have three kids myself who went through Macomb County schools, and I’m a retired police chief from Harper Woods. I understand parents’ concerns about safety,” says Burke. “Macomb County is the only county that I am aware of that has a dedicated school safety division through the Emergency Management Office.”

Safety in Macomb schools

By law, all schools in Michigan must have active violence protocols in place and Macomb County’s Emergency Management and Communications offers additional risk and vulnerability assessments to schools that go beyond mandated safety requirements.

“About 60% of districts in Macomb County have adopted Run, Hide, Fight as their active violence protocol, while another 40% have adopted a commercially-developed program such as ALICE (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate),” Lewis adds. “The county and the MISD’s school safety committee, which represents all the districts in the county, do not recommend one program over another, as long as the adopted program is consistent with accepted best practices.”

In addition to assisting in the implementation of these protocols, school and county officials work together to develop training exercises in case of an active shooter and have increased collaboration between schools and first responders to ensure quick response to emergency situations.

Some school districts have even entered into agreements to integrate their internal camera systems into the county’s Communications and Technology Center (COMTEC), which allows responders to view school camera feeds live during emergency response operations. This is a significant aspect of school safety that helps reduce response time when it counts most.

Support for safe school environments

Schools in Macomb County can also opt to use grant funding for the school safety team to conduct comprehensive risk and vulnerability assessments, and this is available to every school in the county, says Burke. About 200 schools in Macomb County have taken part, and the department is currently following up with schools for routine repeat assessments.

“The risk and vulnerability assessment is very intensive,” he explains. “We generate a 30-page report of data we’ve gathered about the school, including geographic and location information.”

The assessment begins with a comprehensive interview with school staff on-site. “A big part of it is we are able to meet with each principal and key staff and other individuals in the buildings for an intensive interview process,” says Burke. “We develop relationships, not just with the superintendents, but with the staff at the school. We are interested in what they have to say, what they know and what drills take place.”

The second half of the assessment is a walk-through of each school building to assess the existing security profile. “We look at locks, cameras, everything related to the physical security of the building. We offer considerations based on national best practices,” Burke says.

The result is a comprehensive security profile of the school, including physical security, systems, policies, procedures, emergency plans and more. When individual schools are aware of additional ways they can improve safety in and around the school, they can use the risk and vulnerability assessment as a guide for future safety enhancements, even in millage proposals says Burke.

“Schools across the county have done an incredible job with school safety policy plans,” Burke says. “School safety is the No.1 priority of everyone involved here in Macomb County.”

For more information on living and learning in Macomb County, visit Make Macomb Your Home. Find more articles like this at Metro Parent’s A Family Guide to Macomb County.

Metro Parent Editorial Team
Metro Parent Editorial Team
Since 1986, the Metro Parent editorial team is trained to be the go-to source for metro Detroit families, offering a rich blend of expert advice, compelling stories, and the top local activities for kids. Renowned for their award-winning content, the team of editors and writers are dedicated to enriching family life by connecting parents with the finest resources and experiences our community has to offer.

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