Integrated Security Services, Inc., New York

School Safety: Building Solutions that Work

25 Mar

School safety sign

Integrated Security Services is committed to developing and implementing hands-on, responsible methods to protect students and faculty alike.

Suppose I said you could go back in time to the first recorded shooting in a school in 1902. If I asked you how many mass shootings there would be worldwide in schools by 2013, what would you say? 5, 10, 50? How about 123.

Modern School Security

Since that first reported school shooting in Canada, 377 students and faculty have been killed, and 17 have been seriously wounded. Typically, a “mass shooting” involves one or more gunman and three or more victims, and it doesn’t necessarily result in the death of everyone involved.

School safety is about preventing some of the most tragic kinds of disasters, including accidents (fire and mechanical), theft, and bullying. When we talk about school safety, as security professionals, what we’re really discussing is a system co-dependent on a series of subsystems, all in the interests of protecting a facility without interrupting its everyday flow.

The goal of the security professional is to find a karmic balance between maintaining the educational environment and managing school safety and security. At Integrated, we use applied technologies and methodologies that support rules and procedures, monitoring, access control, and response without compromising the learning experience.

First Step-Security Safety Assessment

In a typical threat assessment, vulnerability is defined by two factors: the attractiveness of a facility as a target and the level of deterrence and/or defense provided by countermeasures. Target attractiveness is a measure of the possible benefits a facility might have in the eyes of an aggressor, and it’s influenced by the facility’s function and/or symbolic importance.

The deterrence and/or defense provided by whatever countermeasures are in place can be determined by answering the following questions:

  • Is the countermeasure embraced by staff and students, and is it functioning properly?
  • Are proper procedures and training methods being used to implement the countermeasure?
  • Does the countermeasure have any inherent weaknesses that allow it to be easily overcome?

When conducting an “all hazards” assessment of an educational institution, there needs to be a greater understanding of the true assets (faculty and students) at the school. Remember, emergencies and accidents are sudden and often unexpected, so it’s not enough to plan for just a few possible conditions.

This approach enables the security professional to develop an emergency response plan encompassing a variety of hazards, including those that seem less likely.

We also need to understand the school’s culture and climate in order to balance an open learning environment with the security demands predicated by today’s world. Throughout the assessment phase, careful attention will be paid to all four core areas of emergency planning: Prevention/Mitigation, Preparedness, Recovery, and Response.

Managing Changes

Kids playing

Managing a school security and safety solution requires both proactive and holistic behavior, ensuring that each solution functions well as a full-fledged system, rather than merely a collection of independent sub-systems. And rather than simply focus on one particular aspect of risk mitigation, such as electronic access control or physical security (e.g. guards), we recommend evaluating each operation by focusing on three primary elements of a security program:

1. Policies and procedures
2. Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED)
3. Blended physical and electronic security solutions.

A good balance of each proposed security measure is as important as the measures themselves, and it serves both students and faculty in fostering better communication and intervention when they’re required.

Our recommendations also follow the industry standard protection strategy of “concentric rings.” This physical security protection scheme is based on providing multiple layers of protection, beginning at the site perimeter and replicated at various other “rings” as one proceeds inward towards the most critical areas and assets.

These additional rings might include interior lobbies, interior controlled areas, and classrooms. Each ring provides deterrence, detection, and delay, while the areas between the rings, referred to as “intervention zones,” provide for incident response.

Crime Prevention through Environmental Design is a relatively new concept, though it’s always been a natural part of the way humans assess and defend against risk. The essence of the CPTED concept is creating a defensive environment by blending both physical and psychological strategies — its goal is to reduce opportunities for crime to occur.

Reduction is achieved by employing physical design features that deter crime, while at the same time encouraging legitimate use of the environment. At the core of this concept are four fundamentals.

When layered over one another, these systems define a school’s boundaries, direct the flow of human traffic to make populous areas less accessible to intruders, maintain the school property to establish ownership, and keep the school highly visible, which conveys the institution’s strength and purpose.

The entire Integrated team — myself included — is committed to implementing all of the measures I just addressed. To find out more about how we can help make your school, church group, company, or organization a safer place, please contact us today.