Don Shomette

People are the Prize

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What is Your Single Greatest School Safety Asset?

Whenever I ask this question during a seminar, I always receive lots of, “Cameras, locks, secured front doors.” These enhance your safety measures, but they are not your greatest asset. They never have been and they never will be. People are your greatest asset—if you treat them as such.

peoplegroupWhat do I mean?

Cameras are not your greatest asset because they are reactive and not proactive. All they can really do is record an event. They may influence some to not commit lesser crimes and other unwanted behaviors, but cameras do not stop school attacks and your greatest safety asset must be able to prevent a school attack.

Locks and secured doors are much better than cameras, because they can physically delay a school attack. Minutes matter and the longer we can keep those who want to hurt us separated from our children, the more lives that will be saved. Locks and secured doors are critical for a safer school, but they are not your greatest safety asset.

People can see, hear, smell, and sense impending danger and that makes them your greatest safety asset. People are the only safety device that can initiate direct action to prevent violence and here’s the best news. Every school already comes equipped with hundreds of them—for free! All you have to do is ask them to be a part of the safety team and train them how to respond to and report potential threats of violence. That’s easy. If you do this, you’ll have hundreds of people helping you to prevent violence and your school will become safer—instantly!

Another great and often forgotten benefit to equipping people to be your greatest safety asset is that by doing so you will improve the quality of their day by lessening their fear which will in turn enhance your school climate. Like academics, school safety is connected to everything you do. When a person feels that they have the ability to control their environment, that they are not at the mercy of others, especially those who just want to hurt them, they will feel better, more confident, and more cared about and this makes for a great day and a great school climate. Never underestimate the importance of team morale. It’s the only leadership responsibility that has to be tweaked daily if not hourly.

So, install cameras and always secure your doors, but put your faith and effort into your people. They will save the day—if you prepare and enable them to succeed. And…they’ll thank you for it.

People are the prize.


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Virginia Tech: Why We Do What We Do

Why do we do what we do?

Police officers are required to enforce the law, all schools are required to practice fire drills, and some schools are required to complete school vulnerability assessments and to practice crisis drills.  It’s the law, it’s a requirement, you have to do it, but that’s not why we do it.

Or at least it shouldn’t be.

Today reminds us why we do what we do.  Today is the anniversary of the Virginia Tech Shooting where 32 people were murdered–not killed—murdered.  One can be killed in a car accident without there being any malice, but murder is an intrinsically evil act with the intentional purpose of robbing a person of their most precious belonging—their life.  No one was killed this day at Virginia Tech.  Thirty-two people were murdered.

In a small way it reminds me of the movie Saving Private Ryan when Tom Hanks is asked by his commanding officer how many men were lost after a battle.  Tom Hanks replied, “35 dead and times two wounded.”  That means besides the 35 men who died in the attack, an additional 70 men were wounded.  That’s a terrible number, but it doesn’t give the true picture until you think in terms of total victims.

What do I mean?

When you include the soldiers who witnessed their friends die, wives and children who lost their husbands and fathers, parents who lost their children, brothers and sisters who lost their sibling, communities who lost their members, the doctors and nurses who treated the physically wounded—all of a sudden, the number of wounded is actually much, much higher and we start to realize the tragic implications of a single life lost or hurt.


Virginia Tech suffered 32 murdered but it was times 5,000 or even higher in total lives lost and hurt which leads me back to my initial question.

Why do we do what we do?

It’s not simply to enforce the law, fill out a checklist, evacuate the building, or disrupt the school day.  Don’t just go through the motions.  We do what we do to prevent death, crippled bodies, lifelong pain and suffering, broken hearts, destroyed lives–we do it to prevent victims, which is anyone who was wounded in any way by the act.

This has to be the reason behind our reason.  If we adopt this mindset it will sustain us, strengthen us, make us do the right thing with compassion and a sense of urgency—which is desperately needed right now.

Whatever it costs us personally to make our schools safer is far less than it will cost a victim to recover from something that maybe, just maybe, we could have prevented.

Today we remember.  We are all Hokies.  Our prayers are with every victim of Virginia Tech.

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Operation Chill

Each summer, 7-Eleven runs a program specifically for law enforcement called Operation Chill.  Depending on how many officers that are in your department and how many 7-Eleven stores that are in your jurisdiction, 7-Eleven will send your department coupons for a free small Slurpee that your officers can then hand out to kids doing a good job in your area.

freezeAll you have to do is contact 7-Eleven, enroll in the program, and they mail you the coupons.  It’s easy and a great opportunity to help change perceptions of law enforcement.  Most people (especially kids) only talk to police officers when something bad has happened.  This is one small but easy way to help change that.

Order yours today!

Find out more online at

Margaret Chabris