How We Can Make Schools Safer — According to the U.S. Secret Service

When I think back to my time in school, my biggest worry for the day was usually recess-related. Will today be the day that I beat my personal record for largest snowman? Will my friends and I run fast enough across the playground to lay claim to the monkey bars and swings?

I certainly never wondered if today would be the day someone walked in with a gun.

Unfortunately times have changed, and this is now a real worry for millions of students and teachers. Schools have changed as well over the years, taking measures to make their buildings safe and secure. The United States Secret Service, FBI, and the Department of Homeland Security have all issued reports outlining a range of security suggestions for schools and campuses.

In the next few articles, we’ll be taking a look at these suggestions and how facilities can implement them.

Sometimes the best methods are the simplest.

1) Controlling entrance to the building

Many schools have limited entrance to just one or two doors. This makes it easier to track who is coming in or out. In conjunction with this, the DHS (Department of Homeland Security) K-12 School Security: A Guide for Preventing and Protecting Against Gun Violence suggests a Visitor Management System:

“A visitor management system is capable of screening visitors using a government- or school-issued ID.The system will then search against databases designated by the school (e.g., sex offender lists, banned visitors) for any concerns in the visitor’s background. If the visitor passes the system’s screening, it will print a badge for him/her to wear while at the school.”

Another tool that can be used: turnstiles.

“Turnstiles require authenticated credentials to allow access to a facility. They can be integrated with access control systems and monitoring software… (or) biometric technologies (facial or fingerprint recognition). Schools could employ turnstiles to grant (or deny) access and track who is in the building at any given time.”

These measures increase the chances of keeping out unwanted guests. But aside from the main entrances, what else can be done?

2) Hardening the classroom

You may have heard of fabricated reading corners that double as bulletproof shelters. But are there simpler means to making a classroom more secure?

How about door locks?

While schools generally lock their exterior doors, many facilities across the U.S. (about 34% according to the National Center for Educational Statistics) do not have locks on their individual classroom doors. Per the DHS Guide:

“In accordance with recommendations from the Sandy Hook Advisory Commission and The National Association of State Fire Marshals, all classroom and office doors should be equipped with locks that can be secured from inside the room.”

Having doors that can be locked from the inside slows down any attackers, makes it much more difficult for them to enter, and greatly increases the time for students to take cover inside the room. They even have locks that can be engaged via panic button or remote, so no one is put in harm’s way.

For schools that don’t have lockable doors, a range of door blockers are available that are affordable, easily installed, and easy to operate for adults and kids.

Windows are not to be overlooked. While they provide an area of observation, they can also become a liability. An attacker can easily break a window and enter the school.

Window glazing can  help. It’s applied to existing glass, and helps in two ways: (1) It enables occupants to see out, but doesn’t allow anyone to see in, and (2) it strengthens the windows, making it more difficult for attackers to break them.

Physical tools like these help to secure a school, and make it safer for those inside.

Up next: How can advancements in technology and artificial intelligence make schools a safer place? And what steps can be taken by both students and faculty members alike to prevent an attack from being attempted in the first place?

 

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