Where to spend limited funds in school districts is a never ending struggle between school facilities, departments, and of course, the tax payer. Technology changes and ever increasing violence in schools have forced schools to reallocate monies to help bring their school security needs into the 21st Century.
When I was going to School in the 80’s the closest thing to security was the occasional fire alarm and tornado drills. How times change. Over the last 10 years, we have witnessed school tragedies in Columbine High School, shootings at a West Virginia college campus and recently at a grammar school in Connecticut. These events have forced schools to address the security of their schools and campuses for the safety of the students and the peace of mind of the parents.
Now the question is: “What can schools do and what are the choices that districts have, not only to keep their schools safe, but to do it with the funds available?” The traditional electronic security measures did not prevent the tragedy at the Connecticut Elementary School. Unmonitored surveillance cameras only tell us what happened after the fact and the perpetrator shot his way through a glass door so controlled door access was of no use. So what is a school to do?
Armed guards at every door is an option but that requires increased ongoing employment cost which get more expensive over time and creates an atmosphere that resembles a prison more than a school.
Bullet proof doors with no windows or windows incorporating bullet proof glass would have made the Connecticut break in more troublesome. We like windows but that adds expense but these expenses are at least fixed. So do we want a prison or a school?
Proactive security proves the most beneficial. Options could include:
- Perimeter fence with gate access control might work but it gets us back to creating a prison atmosphere and is very expensive.
- Use of high resolution IP surveillance cameras along the school perimeter that are equipped with video analytics and programmed to detect motion and other abnormalities could send out alerts to office staff when someone is approaching the building during times when class is in session and traffic should be low giving more time to react to suspicious characters.
- Metal detectors in the vestibule could alert staff of possible firearms before individuals were buzzed through.
- Glass break detectors at perimeter windows and entrance doors could sense breaking glass that, once a break in was detected, would sound an alarm thus activating school emergency policies (assuming you have them in place) and also immediately contact the police. Would the shock of a loud alarm cause an intruder to abandon his plan? Who knows for sure but it should give him pause to consider it and at that point every second counts.
- Wireless panic lanyards could be worn by all staff that, at the press of a button, alarms could be sounded and authorities alerted and dispatched. Obviously, inner school communications at this point becomes critical also through paging announcements, text message alerts with instructions, etc. The office area, usually the communications headquarters, could be turned into a high security bunker and cameras throughout the school could be monitored by staff which then sends out announcements over the school intercom keeping students and staff aware of the current locations of dangerous individuals and the status of the emergency situation. You can see how it all works together.
- Any alarms from intrusion devices such as glass breaks or panic buttons should sound distinct from other alarms, especially the fire alarm, and should be able to be silenced after a timed delay or from the command center after the initial alarm is sounded so intercom communications can be heard along with reducing stress. As Portage, Wisconsin Police Chief Ken Manthey notes: “At Columbine; the fire alarms went off constantly adding to the stress and difficulty in communicating with each other and hearing any potential shots”. Practicing a response to intrusion alarms should also be added to your emergency plan.
Every security measure mentioned here is a possibility and there are many more options, some existing and some emerging, that I haven’t touched on due to space. Knowing what is best for your school begins with a comprehensive security analyses combined with an understanding of the budget you’re working with. Fearing’s Audio Video Security can help you, or be part of a team that helps you, assess and improve your school security needs. Fearing’s also offers equipment leasing options that may assist you in escalating your security deployment to address immediate security while allowing you to amortize the cost over time.
You can stay abreast of new security technologies and additional related information by subscribing to Fearing’s blog at: https://fearingsblog.tumblr.com/ . I have children in school myself so for me this is about more than just selling you something. Contact me today if I can be of assistance in developing your school security strategy.
Business Development Executive
Fearing’s Audio Video Security