Written By: Brad Campbell | March 3, 2020
A growing number of high-profile school shootings in the US over the past couple of decades have brought school safety and security into the spotlight. Sadly, this doesn’t seem to be something that is going to change anytime soon. Whether it’s an elementary school, middle school, high school, or university campus, all school administrations should put plans and security measures in place to protect students and staff in the unfortunate event of an armed school intruder on the premises.
Even with the best preventative measures in place, it’s impossible to guarantee that any school won’t be the target of a violent individual. With that in mind, there are methods to make schools safer and better prepared to deal with such an incident. The more prepared staff and students are, and the more security measures in place, the smaller the threat posed by an attacker is. Let’s take a look at some ways schools can improve safety and security on their campuses.
The worst way to prepare for school intruders is to ignore the issues that cause school shootings in the first place. Administrations should provide training to their staff on how to identify warning signs that a student may carry out a violent attack on school grounds. Information on the matter should also be provided to students and parents, along with a clear procedure for reporting concerns about a student to the administration. That way, administrators can conduct a threat assessment together with mental health professionals and law enforcement to evaluate the risk and probability of a violent incident.
Well-trained staff, along with informed students and parents, can be all it takes to prevent a tragic incident from occurring on campus. Though there is no single indicator that someone is a risk to school safety, an attack rarely occurs without some prior warning signs. If people know how to spot the signs of mental health issues and indicators of violent behavior, as well as to know how to communicate about these issues, tragedies can be prevented.
A school intruder drill can save lives when a school is under attack by a gunman. Schools have been doing fire drills, earthquake drills, and other types of safety exercises for decades, and the same principles can be applied to an intruder drill. The idea is that if students and staff are drilled with safety information and practice what to actually do in case the unthinkable happens, the risk is greatly minimized.
Training for an armed intruder can consist of various components, such as lockdown drills, evacuation drills, and active threat exercises. A lockdown drill, for example, teaches staff and students how to lock and barricade themselves inside a room, stay away from windows and doors, and hide from armed intruders until the authorities arrive. On the other hand, evacuation drills teach students and staff how to leave the building as quickly as possible and get to safety.
An active threat drill can include training on things like how to remain calm, how to deal with the injured, how to help others get to safety, and how to confront and disarm an attacker if it comes down to it. There is no one-size-fits-all model for an intruder drill, and it is up to every school and administration to evaluate their needs and come up with an appropriate model. However, a complete drill should include elements of all the different types of exercises mentioned above.
The most vulnerable points of entry in any facility are its windows and doors. They are also often the most overlooked areas when it comes to building security. Closing and locking windows and doors provides a false sense of security because the reality is that standard window glass breaks incredibly easily. All it takes is one blow from a hard object or a single bullet to shatter the glass, providing an armed attacker with easy access to the building or a room within.
Schools can beef up their security against school intruders by upgrading vulnerable glass with a variety of security glass products. Obviously, it isn’t always practical or affordable for an educational facility to completely replace their windows and doors. However, many security glass products can be retrofitted onto a building, right on top of its existing glass, to improve overall security and protect against intruders.
The three main types of protective glass products that schools can use to upgrade their windows and doors are safety and security window film, laminated security glass, and polycarbonate panels. All of these products will prevent the windows from easily shattering apart and can even resist bullets to varying degrees. This delays attackers from gaining entry to buildings and rooms, which gives students and staff valuable time to react and time for the police to arrive on the scene.
To choose the best glass type for the facility, a school must weigh a threat assessment against the available budget. A security professional can conduct a threat assessment to evaluate the building’s existing defenses, point out vulnerable points in an active threat scenario, and come up with recommendations to improve security to save the lives of students and staff. The administration can then decide on the appropriate type of security glass to keep intruders out.
There is no way to be 100% sure that your school is safe from violent intruders, but there are ways to prepare and protect lives. There are certainly more ways than this article has covered, but we’ve gone over some of the most effective methods, including promoting awareness and communication to prevent incidents, holding drills to prepare students and staff, and reinforcing windows and doors with security glass to keep attackers out. These methods should be included as part of any comprehensive school safety and security strategy to minimize the risk of injury and loss of life.