school security

5 Ways to Make Our Schools More Secure

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There is quite a bit of focus these days on the fact that corporations, churches, businesses and other organizations need to focus more time and resources on preparing for a critical incident such as an active shooter. I couldn’t agree more as I am very passionate about this fact. However, the single most critical organization that needs to focus A LOT of time and energy into critical incident and active shooter preparation is our schools. Whether it is a crazed gunman, an extremist terrorist, or the lunatic ex-spouse of a staff member, the threats to our schools are real and are not going away.

It was in April of this year when the ex-husband of Karen Brown, a special education teacher in San Bernardino, entered her classroom and gunned her down while she was teaching. He also struck two students in the process, killing one, before turning the gun on himself. In the Sandy Hook Elementary massacre, the shooter wandered the school executing victims for 11 minutes before being encountered by the police and taking his own life. All of his victims were shot between 3 and 11 times EACH. These are two starkly different incidents with very different shooters behind the gun. Their motives and intended targets in both incidents were vastly different yet the result was still the same. Innocent lives were taken by crazed gunmen on school grounds and the existing security policies and measures failed.

Outside of the existing potential threats previously mentioned, our schools have to begin considering that they qualify as both a soft target and a high value target to terrorist organizations. Both terrorists and active shooters alike seek maximum carnage with minimum resistance and our schools would traditionally provide both to these deranged individuals. Although police response times to active shooter events have improved greatly, it could still be the most important three minutes of your life.

HERE ARE FIVE CRUCIAL THINGS EVERY SCHOOL SHOULD BE DOING TO IMPROVE THEIR SECURITY.

Consistently secure all buildings. This may seem simple and elementary but it can be a game changer. One door left unlocked and unattended could make a life a death difference. In the Columbine High School shooting, not a single locked door was breached by the shooters. In the San Bernardino incident, the gunman attempted to enter a side door where he would go unnoticed but it was locked and he was forced to enter the main entrance. Although their security policy still failed, the incident could have been much worse had he entered undetected. Even on the most beautiful of days, keep all classroom and building doors secured and locked. You are sending a message to anyone seeking to infiltrate your campus.

Conduct regular and visible patrols. This task should be shared by staff and faculty so that everyone participates in proactively creating a secure environment. Furthermore, the more personnel involved, the better. This also sends a message to any potential intruders that you have multiple people involved in securing your campus and that they will meet resistance. If ANY unknown or suspicious person is identified on campus or in a building, then you MUST confront them. Confront them IMMEDIATELY and ASSERTIVELY and preferably in pairs if the personnel is available. When any criminal is seeking a victim, they are looking for just that, a victim. Being assertive and not avoiding the situation communicates clearly that your campus is not a soft target.

Get a threat assessment and security evaluation done for your particular campus. Every school building and campus is different and will have different strengths and weaknesses when it comes to achieving physical security. There are also several ways to advantageously exploit certain features of particular buildings and construction materials during a critical incident. Hiring a professional to evaluate your facility can make all the difference when it comes to critical incidents.

Have a plan. This also sounds elementary and obvious but I have been astounded at the number of school personnel I have spoken with that don't have a real plan. Unfortunately today our schools face multiple threats from both nature and man and having specific plans for those events and your particular campus are extremely important.

Waiting for the School Resource Officer to handle the situation is NOT a plan. Although SROs are an outstanding resource for schools, they cannot be everywhere all of the time. Even if your campus is small and it only takes one minute for the SRO to get anywhere on campus, one minute is an eternity during an active shooter event. Every school, campus, and faculty composition is different so having a customized plan creates an outstanding advantage when seconds count.

Practice and train frequently. When in danger, the human brain goes directly into survival mode. We cannot reason, our only instinct is to survive. When we do this, we have one of three reactions, fight, flight or freeze. These are primitive instincts that have kept our species alive for thousands of years, but they are just that: primitive. Our survival instincts can be programmed to change the way we respond under critical stress levels. The ONLY way to do this is through training and repetition. During any critical incident most people will have some sort of reaction, but prior training allows you to RESPOND.

To learn more about obtaining a security evaluation, training for a critical incident, or strengthening the security of your school or campus, please visit our website at www.defendsystems.com or give us a call at 615-236-6484.

Why Active Shooter Training for School Personnel is More Important than Physical Security

While I would never advise a school or any other organization not to improve their physical security, it would undoubtedly not be first on my list of recommended safety and security enhancements. Although improving physical security is very important for a variety of reasons and is typically selected as the first option in response to calls for an increase in school security, Active Shooter Training for school personnel is my first recommendation. 

WHY WE START WITH ACTIVE SHOOTER TRAINING...

Unfortunately in our world today, these calls for action are the result of some type of school shooting tragedy.  They are not a result of some random property crime or simple assault that occurred on one of our campuses.  When is the last time there was an outcry for increased security due to a laptop being stolen from a school’s computer lab or because two teenagers got into a fistfight?  It just does not happen.  We are accustomed to accepting these types of crimes and incidents as part of life that occur regularly and therefore we are desensitized to them.  There is no feeling of shock, horror, or sadness because someone spray painted the front of the school. 

Sadly, we as a nation all feel the shock, horror, and sadness every time there is a school shooting.  No matter how frequent these become, they still shock the senses of the majority of society and inevitably lead to calls for improving school security.  The demand for security improvements typically results in some physical improvement such as adding surveillance cameras, metal detectors, high-security glass, or even the addition of a school resource officer

THE CASE FOR STARTING WITH ACTIVE SHOOTER TRAINING FOR PERSONNEL AND STAFF...

While these are all certainly steps in the right direction, any physical security improvement should be secondary to extensive active shooter training for faculty and staff.  The reason for this is quite simple.  Physical security measures will not prevent the majority of school shooting attacks.  It is an unfortunate fact that the vast majority of these attacks are launched by current or former students who possess the inside knowledge to exploit the security vulnerabilities and gain access to the school.  

All school personnel should be armed with the knowledge of what to do during an attack no matter what part of the campus they are on and no matter who is or is not with them.  Having very specific active shooter response plans for every classroom, office, gymnasium, bathroom, locker room, and any other part of the facility is critical to saving lives because it allows trained personnel to respond instantly with a very specific plan and purpose.  Every campus layout and school floor plan is unique and therefore should have plans and protocols specifically designed for that facility. 

All active shooters understand that once they fire that first shot, the clock has started.  They accept that there will be a very swift and powerful law enforcement response and they do not care.  They do care about committing maximum carnage during that small window of time and that is exactly what they do and when they do it.  Once law enforcement personnel arrive, they will be confronted very swiftly and their rampage will be stopped or they will flee prior to law enforcement arrival. All that being said, the focus needs to be on that window of time from when the first shot is fired until the event is over.  The event is not over until the shooter has been neutralized and all persons in need of medical aid are in the care of medical professionals. 

THE EFFECTS OF ACTIVE SHOOTER TRAINING FOR SCHOOL PERSONNEL...

Training school personnel on best practices of avoiding gunfire, proper barricading, counter assault maneuvers, and hemorrhage control techniques is the most critical element to improving school security. (Although every victim of an active shooter attack cannot possibly be saved, the grim reality is that several victims of past attacks could have been saved had personnel known simple bleeding control techniques and had the tools to apply those techniques on site.)

Training faculty and staff to respond to these events immediately and with a very specific plan and purpose will undoubtedly mitigate casualties and increase the survivability rate should an attack occur.  While we will, unfortunately, never be able to completely prevent these attacks from occurring, we can absolutely tilt the survivability odds in our favor.  Active shooters could care less about your physical security measures because they typically have nothing to do with slowing them down once they are already inside.  What they are not prepared for is resistance

In every active shooter event, there is undoubtedly a significant time gap from when the shooting begins to the arrival of law enforcement.  Our active shooter training fills that gap. For more information about our training for your school staff and faculty and how we can help your school create a safer environment, give us a call at 615-236-6484 or go to defendsystems.com.