The most important thing to understand when addressing school security is that it must be based on effectiveness. We know from past incidents that quick notification to police and alerting occupants are the two best ways to reduce casualties. Perimeter security focuses on locking the problem out. Metal detectors rely on the idea that you can prevent the problem from entering the school. We have had attacks inside schools with metal detectors and outside in the queue. Once breached, external security offers no protection to address an attacker in the building.
There must be a balance between a practical approach and strict security measures that severely hinder the ability of schools to perform fundamental functions. We all want our kids to be safe when they are at school. We don’t want them to be traumatized by the simple act of arriving every day.
In the aftermath of the Parkland, FL shooting there have been demands for enhanced security at our schools. Metal detectors are often a go-to solution without much of an understanding of the practicality of deployment. There does exist an unmeasurable deterrent factor that comes with metal detectors, but we have seen incidents of students planting weapons outside the building to be retrieved during sports practice or by leaving them by a door. Students have used after school events, (choir, performances, sporting events) to plant weapons inside the building to be retrieved the next day. Whenever a barrier is put in place, a committed person will find a way to bypass the security.
Although the cost of the detectors seems reasonable around $3500.00 a piece, the cost for personnel to operate and manage the system is enormous. For every metal detector, you need someone to monitor the system. During peak hours the number of people required to manage this system increases. The simple expense of having one person sit at a metal detector from roughly 6:30 in the morning until all activities are done for the night is high. This doesn’t take into account all of the weekend events for plays and concerts as well as community sports that utilize the facilities. If at any point, someone is able to enter the building without being checked, there exists an opportunity to plant a weapon for later use. The one thing history tells us about school shooters is that they plan the attack and scout out opportunities.
The question we should be asking is: will the safety and security measures I put in place get law enforcement there quicker and will it reduce casualties in the event the perimeter is breached? Access control, cameras and metal detectors have been compromised in the past and did not accomplish either of these things. With limited funds for security and an increasing demand for various approaches, we need to look at those things that have been proven to save lives. The biggest factor in reducing casualties is notification to police and alerting building occupants of a threat. Once these are done the individuals can initiate the respective emergency action plan. Perimeter security has been thwarted in every single school attack. What does your approach do to minimize casualties once this occurs? The SafeDefend system was designed with this question in mind. Saving lives by preparing staff to respond, notifying everyone in a crisis, and providing tools for protection and trauma response should be the first step for safety.