New Pa School Safety Institute Provides Innovative Approach to School Security

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (ErieNewsNow) – School security threats have become an unfortunate reality around the country. Preparation and response can be the difference between life and death.

“School safety is absolutely at the forefront of our education leaders’ minds,” said Britta Barrickman, the Chief Impact Officer of the Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA). 

But with innovative and immersive technology at the new Pennsylvania School Safety Institute (PennSSI), school districts and law enforcement can step into the future of school safety.  

“It’s a shame that we have to have it, but it’s nice that we have it,” said Michael Deitz, the Associate Director of PennSSI. 

It’s hard to describe, in words, the life-like training scenarios the 5,000-square-foot training center offers. State-of-the-art technology and projectors make up a 360-degree simulator and an eight-room school building, providing a palpable experience with real-time interactions and consequences for over 2,000 scenarios, and counting. The scenarios can also be tailored to a specific school or district.


“We’re creating our own scenarios so we can make it more specific to our education members. When situations arise, we can create them so that everything we create is current and it’s never stale. It’s always new and refreshed,” said Deitz. “The institute gives law enforcement SROs as well as their educational counterparts the ability to come in here, practice, work on different tactics. That way the education staff can see how law enforcement does it and vice versa. That way they can all learn from each other,” Deitz added. 

Barrickman says PennSSI has an agreement with the Pennsylvania School Boards Association to provide an opportunity for public school members of the association to sign up for sessions.  

“Our goal is to have both educators, education leaders and their law enforcement and first responders come through as teams to improve how they’re responding as a crisis response team,” said Barrickman. 

The institute offers a safe space to practice real scenarios like deescalating disgruntled parents, confronting individuals experiencing a mental health crisis and even an active shooter. 

“We’re hoping to provide that space for them to practice as more of a preventative measure so the first time they’re in those situations isn’t the first time they’ve seen it,” said Barrickman. 


Providing potentially life-saving feedback and enhancing preparation efforts for the future of school safety, one scenario at a time. 

“They can watch, they can see what they’re doing, and they can improve. The more that they practice, the more that they get experience and exposure to different environments, the better they can be going into the future,” said Deitz. “When they’re immersed in a real-life situation, they can reflect on it so that way they’re not panicking, they can be more controlled and they know how they’re going to react,” he added. 

PennSSI will officially be open to train school districts and law enforcement this July. For more information on training sessions, you can find it here. 

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