Re-posted with permission from Campus Safety Magazine and edited.
There’s a lot of security technology and equipment out there, but which solutions are worth the investment?
We see a lot of security technology and solutions that are effective, but we also see some that are downright silly, impractical or even dangerous. Unfortunately, when a highly publicized active shooter attack happens on a campus, some people let their fears outweigh their common sense. This makes them prone to making ill-advised technology and equipment purchases.
Impractical Investments Never Help
An example of this is bullet-proof backpacks, which can cost as much as $500 each. Inevitably after something like a Parkland, Sandy Hook or Virginia Tech tragedy happens, parents rush out to buy these things in hopes they will protect their children from the next school shooting.
Issues with things like these backpacks that make them impractical include:
- Although the rate of gun violence in America is unacceptably high, the chances of someone being killed by an active shooter are really, really small. You are much more likely to be struck by lightning.
- Even in the unlikely event that a student does get caught up in an active shooter attack, the backpack won’t protect them from the front or side. Additionally, in an effort to get away from the shooter more quickly, they might take off their backpack, rendering it useless.
- Again, in the unlikely event that a student experiences a school shooting, there is a really good chance the student won’t be wearing their backpack if they are sitting in class, at lunch, playing on the playground or exercising in physical education class.
There are also issues with schools installing ballistic classroom doors, which can cost around $4,000 each. We have yet to hear of a school, university or hospital shooter successfully breaching just a normal locked interior door. Even those wimpy push-button locks haven’t been breached (yet). That’s because active shooters almost always want high body counts. When they encounter a locked door, they simply move on to an entrance that isn’t locked or is a softer target.
Now, there might come a time when an active shooter will breach a locked interior door. However, the likelihood of that happening at your specific campus is infinitesimally small. It’s even smaller than the remote chance of an active shooter attack happening at your location in the first place.
That isn’t to say that ballistic doors don’t have their place on some campuses. If you have a high-security location —such as a nuclear facility or infectious disease research lab — that type of solution might be very appropriate. But if you install those doors on your average classrooms, you are probably wasting your money.
Security Solutions that Make Sense
So which security technologies and equipment should your campus buy? We generally recommend solutions that have multiple applications and can prevent or mitigate multiple risks. For example, locks not only enable teachers to lockdown their classrooms, locks also can also prevent theft and vandalism.
The purchase is even better if you can use it during your day-to-day operations. For example, card access control solutions not only improve security, the cards themselves can be used by students, faculty, clinicians and staff as debit cards, cafeteria cards, library cards, laundry access cards and more.
So, here is a list of just some the security equipment and technologies that we believe would be wise investments:
- Classroom Door Locks: These should comply with all fire and ADA codes, and should be lockable from the inside of the room so a teacher, administrator or other staff member can quickly lockdown and shelter in place.
- Access Control: Card access control systems can enable a campus to lockdown quickly. They also allow administrators to deactivate a card when a person stops attending the school or an employee is terminated. Additionally, data from these systems can help law enforcement investigate campus crime.
- Two-way Radios and other forms of Emergency Communication: These should be used not only during security and safety incidents, but also for regular campus operations. If possible, radios should be able to communicate with local first responders during any kind of emergency.
- Emergency Notification Systems: Multiple layers of these mass communication devices should be deployed, such as public address systems, text alerts, voice evacuation systems, strobes, digital signage, etc.
- Security Cameras: Video surveillance can help security personnel verify alarms. Additionally, cameras can help with investigations, as well as monitor other issues, such as damage from flooding, as well as crowds at concerts and athletic events.
- Fire Alarms: These sound when there is a fire and can be leveraged for mass notification.
- Intrusion Alarms: These can monitor campuses during off-hours, as well as areas prone to tampering or other issues (such as flooding).
- Window Security Film: This solution not only slows down a would-be attacker from entering through a window, it also prevents glass from breaking during severe weather emergencies and protects building occupants from flying debris. Additionally, it can help conserve energy.
- Secure Vestibules: This approach funnels all visitors through one entrance so their identity can be verified. We believe that this is essential, especially in K-12 facilities.
- Anonymous Tip Lines: These should not only accept information via phone, but also via text and online. They can identify potential active shooters as well as individuals who might be suicidal or experiencing some other crisis.
There are many more excellent solutions on the market that we haven’t mentioned here, though this is a good start. In addition to these, be sure you incorporate Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) concepts. Also, don’t forget about other non-technical solutions, such as threat assessment and management; training of officers, staff, students and clinicians; mental health services; social services and more.
There are a lot of great campus security solutions on the market right now, but campuses must do their research and use some common sense so they invest wisely.
Get Advice from Your Local ISG Expert
We are here to help. Your neighborhood ISG dealer can do a site survey of your campus, and offer practical advice on security solutions that would make sense for your facility and your budget. Contact us today to speak with your local representative. Don’t put it off until after the next incident occurs.