Our heart breaks when ever we watch a breaking news about gun attacks or mass shootings in schools anywhere in the world. Here’s the List of school shootings in the United States from 1764 to the one happened on January 20th 2017. All of us simply pray for these innocent kids but some people don’t just watch. They strive for a change. Here’s an interview from Heidi Wysocki, Founder of First Defense Solutions
Tell us about yourself and what made you realize the need for First Defense Solutions
I have an extensive background in Fortune 50 corporate finance and Big 4 management consulting. At Pfizer, I had firsthand experience supporting their Global Operations, which included EHS (Environmental Health and Safety), Business Continuity Planning and Security. While I was working on the finance side, I had daily contact with Pfizer’s experts in this field, and exposure to how they managed such an important part of a multi-billion dollar, multi-location corporation with thousands of employees depending on them. At other points in my career, I worked for both KPMG and PwC, and have enjoyed excellent training to become a problem solver and project manager. Those skills have really been put to the test by creating and building our own company.
First Defense Solutions was born from a desire to create a safer school environment where teachers can teach, and kids can get back to being kids. We built a unique business model by investing time in market research, social listening, and data indicating that most school attacks are over in less than 5 minutes, but the average police response is longer than that, out of sheer logistics/location/ability to access the building.
What if we could have more control over that first 5 minutes of an attack by anticipating and de-escalating it before it started, and being onsite to neutralize a threat quickly and save more lives?
My business partner is a police officer with extensive experience in active shootings, and de-escalation of dangerous situations. We worked together to create training modules and a physical security program that is really unique in the industry.
What steps should a School take to safeguard their kids and how can First Defense Solutions help them?
Schools are doing a great job with the resources they have. The main challenges are that they don’t have a lot of resources, and that our teachers are in charge of protecting a room full of kids (rather than just protecting themselves – you can’t get up and just leave the area; you have to protect the kids too).
Our recommendation is to
1) Utilize training that incorporates both faculty and parents, so that everyone knows how to best identify emotionally elevated situations, and de-escalate before violence occurs, and
2) Include our incredible team as part of your onsite support. We don’t see a fire and wait for the fire department to arrive to put it out – We use a fire extinguisher that we have onsite.
“When you have a violent situation in the school that rapidly changes lives, why would it make sense to wait for help?”
Every time there is a weapon on campus, someone inevitably says they thought something was wrong but didn’t know what to do. Our training provides that guidance and uses law enforcement training to help civilians connect the dots and stop violence before it starts. Our officers are the best available in the industry due to our stringent hiring requirements. All of our officers are plain-clothes certified former law enforcement or veterans, and all have been in an active shooting. These are key elements when you are working with schools, because the difference between training and experience can change lives when you are armed on campus.
We prefer plain-clothes officers because it reduces the feel of a militarized environment and makes our team more approachable for the kids. Where we have physical security on campus (training is available as a standalone option), we partner with the teachers and staff as support for them. Also, studies show that kids who feel safer at school perform better on standardized tests. It’s good for the schools, the community, and the kids.
How are teachers and kids responding to your initiatives?
We get great feedback and have received a really supportive response. Parents want to be involved with their children’s school, and they want to know their kids will be as safe as possible during the school day. Incorporating parents into training gives schools an extra opportunity to connect with parents. Schools are happy with the added knowledge and safeguarding.
How is your knowledge in Finance and Management helping you run your Startup?
It’s been critical in my ability to take an idea hatched in casual conversation, and build it into a robust business model. We are a lean company and think strategically about everything we do. Our decisions are driven from ROI analysis, and forward-looking planning so that we can make the most of our dollars in these early stages.
My experience with both private and public companies gave me a great sense of how to plan, and having worked with companies that were not as conservative in their accounting practices made me incredibly aware of the importance of transparency and due diligence.
Many years ago, I was a government contractor supporting Foreign Military Sales on behalf of the Navy. Contract review and governance can be the downfall of a startup, so from day 1 we have outsourced to a attorney and we don’t flinch to consult our legal resources before making a decision.
Some of my hardest and most frustrating work experiences created the skills I have now. I truly have no regrets, including that 3 weeks where I did nothing but review SEC filings for a private equity firm, or the time I spent working on financial database implementations. From the former, I learned the importance of always ticking and tying numbers and knowing WHY your results are what they are. From the latter, I really learned how to take a big idea and manage it down to digestible processes. You have to be able to tell your story in an elevator ride, or tell the epic journey. You can’t do just one of those; you have to be able to do both. Project management taught me that skill.
Your favourite books?
Right now it’s Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss. I usually read a book a week. I’d like to thank the good people of GSK for offering a speed reading course when I worked there!
Future plans and any experiences worth sharing?
As a new company we have a lot of future plans! Right now we are focusing on growing our business in the DFW area. Long term, we plan to break into other major markets in Texas, and branch out from there to other states. On another front, giving back to the community is really important to us, and we love supporting our friends and neighbors. We are hoping to plan a 5k for 2018 to raise money and create a scholarship fund for kids.
I am really happy for covering Heidi’s story since it makes me feel satisfied that I am encouraging someone who works for a good cause.