A recent article by the Associated Press had some good points about selling security equipment to schools. “Many proponents of hardening a school like an airport or police station have backgrounds in law enforcement or the military. Some have little experience or qualification.” One person interviewed for the story had sold $500,000 worth of security equipment to a school to later say (after he was no longer selling security equipment) that the same school could have paid a fifth of the price for the same level of security upgrades.
Listen, technology and gadgetry are not going to solve all of your security problems. Here at Invictus Consulting we believe that your school’s culture of safety can go a long way toward protecting your faculty, students, and staff. Having an emergency action plan that your faculty and staff have been trained on is such an important part of school security. We believe that security plans for intelligent threats should be as commonplace as fire evacuation plans – everyone should know what to do in case of an emergency, everyone will have practiced what to do, and lives will be saved because of prior planning and training.
Beyond an emergency action plan, a culture of security means that faculty, students, and staff have been trained to keep all exterior doors locked and closed; children do not open doors for strangers (even though this goes against a polite culture in parts of the country); parents and other visitors are aware that they need a reason for their visit; visitors have their identification checked against offender databases; visitors are escorted while they’re on campus; and a record is created for each instance of a visitor on campus (i.e., there is a record of exactly who is on campus, when they were there, how long they were there, when they left, who they came to see, etc.).
There are 5 layers of security on any property: outer perimeter, visual perimeter, access control, alarms, and policies and procedures. Your emergency action plan and culture of security would be considered the innermost layer of security – your policies and procedures.
But the other four layers of security are also places where schools can implement cost-effective solutions that improve the security of their people. Lots of schools we assess actually already have some measures in place – fences, gates, cameras, intercom systems, burglar alarms. It’s just that a lot of these systems are mismanaged or not used effectively or to their fullest capabilities. Before you upgrade to a half-million dollar security system, look at your current security measures and see if things can be managed better (e.g., fix broken fences, learn how to use video analytics in your camera system) or used more effectively.
We absolutely believe in the efficacy of physical and electronic security measures. Card readers, cameras, door prop alarms, systems integration – these are all effective and important aspects of security. But don’t mistake expensive equipment for a cure-all to security issues.