Making Spaces Safer. What is an Environmental Scan?

Categories: Education, General News, Other

Step 2 of the 5 Steps to Protecting Children™, our framework for preventing child sexual abuse is Minimize Opportunity.

We know that more than 80% of sexual abuse cases occur in isolated, one-on-one situations. So if you eliminate or reduce isolated, one-on-one situations between children and adults, as well as children and other youth, you’ll dramatically reduce the risk of sexual abuse. 

There is more to think about in this step than just one-on-one situations. Minimizing Opportunity also happens when we take a closer look at the physical space that children are in and we ask “how can we make the space safer?” 

Environmental Scans 

There are many physical aspects of a location to consider when we think of children and safety from sexual abuse.  Get into the habit of walking into a space and doing an environmental scan. Look around for hidden and secluded areas as well as areas that are right out in the open that could be a potential concern. Use our guide below as you enter a child-friendly space and then take the initiative to make changes or talk to someone in charge who can make the changes to the physical environment so that it is safe for children.  

  • Building Access
    • Who has access to the building? Is there a badge or key system? A security guard? 
  • Cameras
    • Where are they? Do they work? How long is footage kept? 
  • Child Protection Signage
    • Is it prominent and in easy-to-understand language? Is it reflective of the populations served? 
  • Doors
    • What are the policies for locking, unlocking, propping open? Who has keys? 
  • Restricted Access
    • Are these areas always locked? Is there appropriate signage? 
  • Lighting
    • Is there adequate lighting inside and outside of the building? Is everything in working order? 
  • Parking Lots
    • Are they safely lit?  
  • Excess Furniture
    • Is it safely and securely stored? Is unneeded furniture out of the immediate area so children cannot hide or play around it? 

This should not be a one-time scan, either. As adults, we should constantly be reevaluating how we can make spaces safer for children, physically safer and through our written policies and guidelines. 

If you would like comprehensive environmental scans for your organization, please reach out to our Consulting Team for more information. 

Darkness to Light training is available in-person led by a Darkness to Light Authorized Facilitator or can be taken individually online. Training is available in English and Spanish. For more information, please visit Get Trained – Darkness to Light ( 

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