Why School Security Preparedness Should Be a Priority in 2016

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When asked to consider the need for security in schools, people often automatically think of the tragedies of Sandy Hook and perhaps Columbine – extreme tragedies that shocked the nation. Unfortunately, these incidents have represented the beginnings of a trend – isolated events we no longer have the luxury of ignoring. 

What most people do not realize is that, on average, there has been a school shooting every five weeks across the country since the Newtown, CT. shooting of December 2014.

Contemporary School Security and Safety Risks

As tragic as it is, violence in school has ceased to be unusual. Experts have attributed the trend to several social factors:

  • Cyberbullying, where social media is used to humiliate peers
  • The ease of anonymously obtaining weapons online
  • Endless cycles of escalating violence perpetrated by kids against kids

Protecting a school today represents many distinctive challenges. These challenges include the number of people traversing a campus on any given day and the size of schools' sprawling facilities, with their many points of entry and exit. Today's schools, and the communities served by them, now recognize the increased need for security preparedness. Everyone wants to make sure that schools are equipped to protect their students and staff from the potential for violent attacks.

Preventative Measures that Make a Difference

Proper school security preparedness means that in the event of an attack, several requirements are already taken care of.

Onsite staff needs the ability to monitor those with access to facilities. 

The front doors to many schools are usually unlocked while school's in session, and a “front office” may not be anywhere near the school's main entrance. Locking the front door and installing a video-enabled intercom with a buzzer can help prevent intruders from entering the building. Installing alarms on perimeter doors makes it possible to determine if the threshold of an alarm-enabled door has been violated.

Onsite staff needs to be able to protect students and faculty. 

That is, if a security breach were in effect (a shooter walking the school, for example), the appropriate authoritative figures onsite need to be able to take action to minimize harm. One relatively easy measure that administrators can institute towards this end is making sure that "classroom-style" locks are utilized in their classrooms.  This technology allows doors to be locked from the inside (using a master key issued to each teacher) and only unlocked from the outside with the same type of key - thereby creating a significant barrier to entry for the undesirable person.

Onsite staff needs ability to communicate with the police more efficiently. 

One of the challenges that law enforcement faces when dealing with school attacks is the inability to determine the nature of a threat in real time. By installing cameras that connect a school’s security system to the local police department, schools can make themselves less vulnerable and more protected. The police can view cameras when they hear of a threat inside a school and respond using more efficient tactics based on the visual intelligence they have obtained.

Unfortunately, many schools have inadequate or non-existing budgets to adequately address security preparedness and are dependent on the towns in which they are situated to earmark funds to make the changes required.

The Nashua School District in Nashua, New Hampshire, serves as a good case study of an entire school district that underwent a security transformation across 19 buildings. The town’s renewed push for security, which began as early as 2008, was stalled for lack of funding, until Sandy Hook spurred the community to take action. Today, security procedures (ex. lockdown drills) are conducted routinely and the use of the district wide security system is prevalent. 

The Benefits of Technology

While the internet has made it easier for wrongdoers to obtain weapons or to learn how to build their own, technology is also an essential component in school security preparedness. Manual lockdown with classroom locks is the first step. But enabling an automated, centralized lockdown system provides additional security; where those with appropriate credentials control doors electronically, from a central location.

Other technological mechanisms that help protect schools include:

  • Intercoms and mass notification systems allow rapid dissemination of information to those who need it
  • Panic and duress alarms in locations that are known to students and teachers increase vigilance levels and decrease response times
  • Video surveillance on external doors and around the perimeters of schools, to whatever extent is feasible, enables ongoing monitoring operations
  • Visitor management systems (VMS) that identify authorized visitors as such can track their movements through the school

Peace of Mind

Vigilance on the part of a school community is a fundamental element in keeping a school safe. Faculty, staff and even students do well to maintain their awareness of the security considerations that matter in their school buildings. School-goers should keep an eye on who's around, remaining aware of anyone unexpected and ready to quickly inquire about anything out of place. Even when the cause for alarm is minimal, a quick check that all is as it should be provides peace of mind – which is the first step to keeping people safe if something does go wrong.

That vigilance, combined with technological and protocol-oriented security measures, can go a long way towards protecting schools against the threat of violence, ensuring safer school communities.


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Author:

Taylor Carr (Linked In, Twitter, Facebook) -