Using the Summer Months to Conduct Site Assessments
The summer months can feel very different at any learning institution, and this difference has advantages when we think about emergency management planning. Because both K-12 schools and institutions of higher education (IHEs) may be hosting summer schools, camps, special programs, or community functions, leadership in both types of learning environments can obtain a new perspective on their facilities, policies, procedures, and systems. One way to capitalize on this special time of year is to conduct a site assessment. A site assessment examines the safety, security, accessibility, and emergency preparedness of buildings and grounds and should be completed on at least an annual basis. This assessment includes, but is not limited to, the following: a review of building access and egress control measures, visibility around the exterior of the building, structural integrity of the building, inventory tracking, compliance with applicable architectural standards for individuals with disabilities and others with functional and access needs, and emergency vehicle access.
Why Assess in Summer?
In many schools, the summer months look very different from the regular school year. Different classes, students, teachers or faculty, and building use plans change the way we see our everyday environment. New perspectives may be opportunities to discover ways to improve our preparedness planning. These opportunities for improvement can be identified during a school site assessment using the SITE ASSESS mobile application (app). Below is a short list of reasons that both K-12 schools and IHEs may choose to use the summer months to conduct site assessments:
- Fewer students and staff and/or shorter school days (if any at all) provide more access to all areas for inspection and assessment.
- Empty areas allow for cleaning and repair not possible or convenient during the school year, which can provide visual access to parts of facilities not visible at other times.
- Nontraditional use or nontypical use of spaces gives a different perspective of facilities.
- Fewer classes allow for time for evaluation, assessment, and analysis of data by facilities and maintenance staff and site assessment/planning teams.
- Newly hired teachers, faculty, staff, and administrators may provide a fresh perspective on procedures and systems.
- Different-aged students (IHEs hosting elementary summer camps, K-12 schools hosting adult learning programs) may help discover improvements to safety, security, or accessibility measures.
How to Get Started Conducting a Site Assessment
The REMS TA Center and the U.S. Department of Education designed the free SITE ASSESS mobile app specifically for education agencies to use to conduct a site assessment. This FREE mobile app is compatible with both iOS and Android operating systems and may be downloaded from the Google Play Store or Apple App Store.
Included in SITE ASSESS, as well as on the REMS TA Center Website, are two resource lists for improving the safety and security of buildings and grounds. The Institution of Higher Education (IHE) Site Assessment Resources contains a wide range of information on topics relevant to higher education, while the K-12 Site Assessment Resources covers areas and topics important for K-12 schools and school districts. Both contain resources for education facilities in general, as well as resources for addressing specific hazards and threats. For more resources on conducting assessments in general, please visit our Topic-Specific Resources section.
To learn more about the features and functions of SITE ASSESS, watch the Webinar Using SITE ASSESS for Higher Ed and K-12 Schools: Overview and Updates. Additionally, K-12 schools and school districts can request to host the new Training by Request, Conducting K-12 Site Assessments With SITE ASSESS Extension Training. This 2-hour training provides an overview of site assessments and how to use the SITE ASSESS mobile app; it must be delivered as an add-on to another training event.