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Is it Time to Revisit Your School Security Controls?

Education, Property & Casualty

Another senseless deadly school shooting in Texas has many school districts revisiting their crisis response protocols. Over the past few weeks, I have had numerous conversations with school representatives regarding “best practices” as it relates to the physical security controls of their school.

For the past 36 years, I have provided safety and security consultation to school districts throughout Wisconsin and across the nation. I have presented hundreds of active shooter training programs and performed hundreds of onsite security assessments of school operations. Not surprisingly, I tend to see the same school security missteps over and over again no matter the size of the school district. For this reason, I would like to provide you my insight as to what I believe school districts must do to maintain proper physical security of their schools.

Deterring armed intruders/active shooters in schools

It is my belief that an armed intruder or active shooter in a school seeks the following:

  • Shooters seek “easy targets of opportunity” – oftentimes, the intruder/shooter will have an intended victim or victims for their attack. If they are not present, they will attack anyone else who presents themselves as an “easy target”.
  • Shooters want little or no barricades or restrictions that will limit their movement. This is the main reason that it is critical that all doors, both internal and external, are locked/secured at all times.
  • Shooters desire little or no supervision or confrontation. They understand that once they or their actions are observed, law enforcement will be called and their actions may be quickly stopped.

Any time your school can introduce physical or procedural ‘barricades’ in front of these items, your chances to reduce the exposure to a deadly school shooting greatly increase.

Three security cornerstones for schools

When consulting with a school regarding their physical security controls, I always stress the following must be in place:

  • Ensure that an immediate mass notification system is in place for each school. If an active shooter situation were to occur, you must notify everyone during the first 0-6 seconds of the crisis to significantly reduce the exposure to injury or death. Whether this is a phone/computer app, a PA system, air horns, etc. – something must be in place. Surprisingly, too many school districts have no mass notification system, or a very limited one.
  • Secure all of your doors (both internal and external) all of the time. Intruders/shooters do not want to face barricades or restrictions that will limit, slow down, or end their movements throughout the school. A closed, locked, and sometimes barricaded door is the best control to limit the bad person’s movements.
    • In reviewing door securement controls with school administration, I often find the following to be true:
      • With very little exception, I can walk around the exterior of any school and find an open door that provides me immediate access in to the building.
      • Teachers aren’t always in agreement to lock their classroom doors during the school day. When I press teachers as to why they don’t (or won’t) secure their classroom doors, I am told of the inconvenience of having to unlock the door to admit a student in to the classroom. This ‘inconvenience’ seems like a small price to pay when it may mean the difference between life and death of those in your school.
  • Develop room/area-specific security controls for lockdown, evacuation, and run-hide-fight protocols. Lockdown and evacuation protocols are not ‘one size fits all’. For this reason, I stress that these protocols must be specifically developed and implemented right down to the individual classroom level.

Room security controls

Specific room security controls should be developed for each room and area of your school building. Due to the various layouts of classrooms and other areas of the school, the security controls of one classroom may vary greatly from those of another classroom in your school.

M3 has developed a Room Security Controls Guide for client use. This guide addresses the immediate actions that must take place during an armed intruder/active shooter crisis. The Room Security Controls Guide should be printed on bright pink paper and kept in the same spot in every room/area for immediate access.

Key Takeaways

In conclusion, ensuring that strong physical security controls and immediate crisis response protocols are in place is critical.

Please login to your MyM3 account in order to access the Room Security Controls Guide, or reach out to your M3 account executive to discuss your school district’s security concerns and how to schedule a security assessment.

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