School security is foremost in the minds of all parents no matter whether it’s in New York, Arizona, or here in Ohio. Any time there’s a school shooting, not only do the parents, teachers, and communities at large suffer in multiple ways, but so does the entire nation. Because law enforcement plays such a huge part in a local community in school shooter training, this article will provide insights relative to securing the school from the unwanted entry of a possible school shooter, drug dealers, or any one else that might not be wanted on school grounds.
This is part 1 of a two-part series on school security. To read part 2, click here (this will open up a new window).
Armed School Personnel
Recently there’s been a good deal of talk among school officials and communities concerning the arming of teachers and school resource officers. Although arming resource officers—be they sanctioned police officers, Sheriff deputies, or hired and trained security guards, is certainly a step in the right direction, there are other security precautions that can, and should be used that will minimize risk, slow the progress of an unwanted person once in the building, while not putting children further at risk. Arming teachers is an issue that each school should of course study and deal with accordingly.
For one thing, there’s obviously a liability issue attached to the issue an armed staff. Be sure to check into this issue before taking this step, even where it comes to arming resource officers. An armed police officer or Sheriff’s Deputy might be safer in the long run, but be sure to do your due diligence before taking either step. Aside from this issue, there are many other things to consider where it comes to school security.
Adopting a Closed Campus Security Model
“Probably the first and foremost security measure that a school can invoke is one of adopting the closed-campus model where anyone wanting access is detained until school officials are reasonably sure that they are legitimate and safe. This can be achieved at the front door or within a foyer that’s been hardened in order to resist attack,” says John Larkin, Senior Partner with Electronic Systems Consultants LLC (ESC) of Greater Ohio.
Bullet proof glass or one or more high-impact laminated coatings can be applied to the glass to stop or slow someone from entering without use of the main door. Tempered glass also can be used, but it is our opinion that having multiple layers of laminate on the glass serves the security mission better.
Electronic Security at the Door
The foyer, as such, should be equipped with a video camera or two as well as a two-way intercom. Although a video intercom will provide both a visual of someone in wait as well as provide two-way audio, it is our opinion that having more than one camera provides a more complete view of the foyer, just in case there are more than one person involved.
“It’s important that school officials have a complete understanding of the situation at hand before unlocking the door and letting anyone inside, and that means being able to view the entire foyer as well as the immediate area outside the building,” Larkin says.
There are vandal-proof cameras and camera housings that can be used that will resist an assailant’s attempt to prevent them from operating properly. When selecting cameras, be sure to pick a model that comes with Infrared illumination so when light inside the foyer is not what it should be, school officials can still see who’s there. You never know when the individual(s) in
wait might destroy the lighting inside the foyer itself before making their presence known to the main office.
Larkin adds, “It’s also important that there be an access control system in place designed to resist attack by anyone inside the foyer. It’s important that access be granted from a distance and not by a school official. Where such an arrangement does not exist, it should be the school resource officer that greets the caller at the inside foyer door.”
Utilization of a Man Trap
The use of a man trap specifically designed to prevent premature entry as well as ready exit is even a better solution. In the first scenario, even if the assailant is prevented from entering the school building, he is free to exit the building to look for other, less secure areas of the building through which to enter. A man trap, however, will hold and contain the individual until law enforcement can arrive to apprehend him. As you can see, the end result of this scenario is much better than the first.
A quality man trap will automatically lock the outside door(s) so the assailant cannot just leave the foyer area. Where glass exists in a quality man trap, it will be designed to withstand a good beating before allowing anyone to pass through.
Man traps are commonly used in banks and other facilities where the possibility of robbery is higher than normal.
Electronic Security and Beyond
In a closed-campus environment, it’s almost necessary to have each and every outside door bugged so the central office knows at a glance if a door has been propped open. Video surveillance in the vicinity will give school personnel the ability to quickly appraise the situation at the door(s) in question.
If an intercom is installed at the door, it’s then possible to have a conversation with the student(s) responsible, thus having them close the doors for safety and security sake. The issue involved in this scenario is that of an inside accomplice who, knowing of the man trap or protected and fortified foyer, might decide to open another entrance, thus allowing the unwanted individual access.
Having electronic access control also gives school officials the ability to lock down the entire school at the press of a single button inside an office command center. It’s then possible to arrange the automated transmission of a request for help to a centrally monitored facility where operators are on duty 24 hours a day, thus calling local law enforcement for assistance.
In part two of School Security for Local Communities we’ll go into more detail with regards to laminated glass, man traps, video surveillance, access control, and the use of two-way intercoms. To contact John Larkin with questions and comments, call 614-754-1393, or send an email to ESC@tpromo.com.
Allan B. Colombo
ESC Social Media and Web Assets Director