School Violence Prevention – Physical Security
This is indeed a difficult topic to try and convey in just a few hundred words. There are literally, hundreds, possibly thousands, of books, not to mention articles & white papers, on securing an educational institution. And all of them have their points, both good and bad. Some are out dated and won’t work today. Others are a little further out in the universe than I am.
However, I’m going to attempt to boil it down into these few words with the most practical, effective, & efficient (both financially and time wise) for you. Most school districts aren’t flush with money, which was promised by lottery sales but then… But these won’t cost that many financial resources to put together.
- The first point I want to make is that parents need to be involved with security for the school. They don’t need to know everything, but if they are a concerned parent then let them ask the necessary questions. As with all good security, you don’t need to disclose everything.
Should you be concerned with the questions about your security plans and other security related items? Of course! But if they happen to be a security professional, then you can ask for and get their input from a security standpoint. Even is the district has a security manager, what would it hurt to get another point of view of the security plans?
- Don’t lie to the parents or the press. In the Phoenix area, I approached a district several years ago. I was told, extremely succinctly, that they had no issues. The next week a 14-year-old was arrested for filling a backpack with weapons to ‘solve a 4th hour problem’.
- All doors should be locked at all times that school is in session. With the allowance that ‘crash bars’ on the doors for emergency exit. AND NEVER allow them to be propped open by anyone for any reason. There are innumerable kinds of alarms and locking mechanisms for classroom doors that are inexpensive to install and use.
- Ensure that the glass in the side lites of the doors is not wide enough for someone to break and then open the doors from inside. These sidelights are standard installation in nearly all new construction to make them friendly and inviting. The only failure in security at the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting in 2012 was exactly this.
- Access control – Everyone who enters the school needs to be required to go to the main office and get a visitors pass. Ideally, the entrance to the school can be redesigned so that everyone has to go through the main office after the doors are locked. This procedure would even include even delivery drivers for the kitchen, visitors, other deliveries, salesmen, and etc.
Another aspect of this is to attempt to funnel all the kids through one door when school is ready to start. This may not be very feasible with many older buildings, but then a teacher needs to be present at every entry/exit door before they are locked.
- CCTV systems should also be considered. And never go for the cheap ones that you can get at Costco or Sam’s Club. They are efficient; however they are also not effective in identifying intruders or vandals after hours. A high quality system is a must. And the extra cost may help to catch a vandal, thief, or spot an active shooter before anyone gets hurt.
Necessarily your CCVS system needs to be monitored and recorded 24/7/365. A monitor over the receptionist desk or something similar may be acceptable in certain areas.
- Lock up all hazardous materials. This may sound elementary, but you may be surprised at the explosive proof cabinets that are left unlocked, open, & with unsecured deadly chemicals
- Disaster Recovery Plan. This is an absolute must, and not just for a potential active shooter situation. You must also include if you want the kids to ‘run, hide, fight’ or evacuate the building. The key with a DRP is that everyone in charge, from teachers, janitors, & everyone else who works inside, to know the plan so they can be effective if something would happen.
- Get rid of those idiotic, ridiculous zero tolerance policies. They are a simple excuse to not do the job that the administration or district people should be doing. Too many times a kid bites his pop tart into a firearm and plays cops & robbers or army. Then they get expelled and ruin their academic career with a black mark that was stupid and foolish for administration to enforce.
Are these all the measures you can take? Not by a long shot, but it’s a start. We can always install 10 foot brick walls with concertina wire, guard towers, double vehicle and pedestrian gates. Hand wand and pat down everyone entering the campus and install GPS in every students backpack or arm.
But will that make them safer from a murderer? Yes, as long as the murderer comes in from outside, but what of the butter knife in the cafeteria or the hammer in shop class? And do we want our children trying to learn in an armed camp? Probably not. So what’s the solution? Training, training for everyone from resource officers to teachers to parents to the cafeteria employees. Good physical security measures that are not too intrusive and most importantly knowing our kids.
(Note: this is the 4th of 5 posts on school violence prevention. The last post will focus on training)
Robert D. Sollars is a recognized expert on security issues, specifically workplace violence. He’s spent 33 years in the security field. Visit his Facebook page, One is too Many, where you will read about other items related to security & WPV issues. Or be a twitter follower at @robertsollars2.
I May be Blind but my Vision is Crystal Clear