CISA Identifies Data-Driven Security Best Practices for K-12 Schools in Simulation Experiment


CISA, MITRE, and GMU collaborated to explore and analyze current and evolving security procedures and technologies to improve school security—primarily against active assailants

WASHINGTON – The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) released a report today from a School Security Simulation Experiment (SIMEX) focused on current security procedures and technologies to improve both physical and operational security in K-12 schools. The two-week SIMEX, conducted jointly with MITRE and George Mason University in August, served as a pilot to determine whether a SIMEX is a viable tool that can be used to evaluate policies, technologies, and procedures related to school safety in the future.

“SIMEX represents the continuation of our work to protect schools with evidence-based strategies, resources and best practices,” said CISA Acting Assistant Director for Infrastructure Security Scott Breor. “CISA will continue to work in partnership with federal partners, states, districts and communities to make our nation’s schools more safe and resilient.”

The SIMEX was designed to develop recommendations for school administrators to enhance the security of their facilities and operations. High-level takeaways from this SIMEX included:

  • In this experiment, it was found that the presence of a School Resource Officer ( SRO) increased the number of students reported safe within a classroom or outside the school and decreased the number of causalities during an active shooter incident in school.
  • In this experiment, it was found that classroom doors that lock automatically when closed increased the number of classrooms that successfully completed lockdown procedures and increased the number of students reported safe during an active shooter incident in school.
  • Allowing teachers to give lockdown notifications over a public address, or PA, system (decentralized lockdown notification processes), as opposed to requiring teachers to formally route that lockdown notification through the front administrative office (centralized lockdown notification processes), did not have a significant impact on the outcome of an active shooter event in this experiment.

A SIMEX uses advanced simulations to test various technical and operational capabilities based on realistic scenarios within a virtual reality environment. During the School Security SIMEX, a representative school environment was simulated to examine the effect that different variables had on lockdown processes and procedures for an active assailant incident.

The full results of this SIMEX have been documented in a formal After-Action Report (AAR), which is available on CISA’s School Safety and Security web page.

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Last Published Date: December 11, 2020