Conference boosts KS’ security knowledge and threat response

Dec. 11, 2023

John Chinen, the security manager at Kamehameha Schools Hawaiʻi, sees his role as more than just a job. Beyond leading his team and approving facility use requests, he is committed to safeguarding the students, staff and everyone on campus. Every day, he makes it a point to connect with the elementary school haumāna during his rounds to remind himself of his purpose.

“I look at my profession as my calling,” Chinen emphasized.

To stay adept at this vital responsibility, Chinen and other KS security and student well-being leaders attended the ALERRT (Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training) conference in Dallas. The November meeting focused on active threat response, critical thinking and leadership skills to prepare for worst-case scenarios on school campuses.

Kamehameha Schools actively prioritizes the safety and well-being of our haumāna by staying current with the latest best practices and procedures.

“This is what keeps me up at night,” KS Maui security manager Darrell Johnson said. “What more can we do to keep our students and staff safe?”

Johnson's reflection echoes a pressing issue covered at the conference: school shootings. As per a 2019 U.S. Centers for Disease Control report, guns are the leading cause of death among American children and teens. The Washington Post reported 338,000 students have experienced gun violence at school since the Columbine shooting in 1999, with the latest being a shooting on Dec. 8 at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas that left three faculty dead.

To combat this modern-day problem, schools across the country are implementing new training and measures, underlining the need for preparation. Chinen returned from the conference with a reinforced determination to collaborate more closely with behavioral health specialists on campus.

“I know a lot of things are confidential, but on the security side, I have to know who my players are and what’s happening in this environment to be able to protect everyone,” Chinen said.

A distinctive challenge for Hawaiʻi Island is the slow emergency response time, particularly in rural areas with limited emergency services. Recognizing this struggle, Chinen explored the effectiveness of a Stop the Bleed kit during the conference. Equipped with a tourniquet and medical supplies, he believes it could be a life-saving solution for his campus when outside help is unavailable.

“These topics are hard to talk about and people don’t want to think about it,” Chinen said. “But the fact is that’s the world we live in now.”

Sonny Santos, the security manager at KS Kapālama, emphasized the paramount importance of his responsibilities. His daily tasks primarily involve screening and managing events. With a vast number of students, faculty and extensive grounds, he meticulously oversees safety review plans, ensuring every detail is accounted for.

Fire escape routes, on-campus transportation, and essential points of contact– this thoroughness is crucial to guarantee the safety of all participants.

Santos, having been a presenter at previous ALERRT conferences, is now focusing on fortifying his team’s crisis management skills and enhancing emergency response protocols. They are currently updating campus maps, knowing it will quicken emergency services response time.

His dedication to protect the entire campus also happens to include ʻohana. His daughter is a kula kiʻekiʻe student.

“It’s bigger than just me or my staff,” Santos stressed. “If we make the wrong decision or fail to act, people can get hurt.”

For Lanakila Niles, he takes his job as the dean of student well-being, residential life with great seriousness. The conference sessions reminded him of how vital student safety is to our organization's mission.

“We have to make sure that our students' well-being is of the foremost importance of what we do,” Niles said. “Whether it's academic, social, emotional or physical, in all of those components we're doing our best to provide an environment that's safe and nurturing for our students.”

Driven by a renewed urgency for preparedness inspired by the conference, these security managers persistently strive not just to defend their campuses but also to forge a safer haven for everyone amidst present-day challenges and looming threats.

KS safety and well-being leaders attend ALERRT Conference in Houston. Pictured left to right: Larry Balding, ALERRT training manager, Sonny Santos, KS Kapālama security manager, Lanakila Niles, KS Kapālama Residential Life, dean of student well- being, J. Pete Blair,ALERRT executive director, John Chinen, KS Hawaiʻi security manager, Darrell Johnson, KS Maui security manager and Neil Yamamoto, ESSWB senior manager, safety and risk.