Hours after the gunman shot through Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut last month, panic began to ripple into the nation’s other schools.Parents phoned administrators and filled their inboxes with emails – all wanting reassurance that this wouldn’t happen at their schools.Cabarrus County Schools was no different, and like other districts in the country, used the moment to re-examine its procedures, protocols and security equipment.In the weeks after the tragedy, the Cabarrus school system didn’t implement any drastic new measures in a knee-jerk response, though.Students didn’t find new metal detectors to greet them at the building entrance, or see their classroom windows replaced with bulletproof glass, or watch security specialists fortify school doors with target-hardening hardware. Instead, each school’s emergency response team pulled out their crisis plans and began to take a closer look. “Our biggest procedure was to re-evaluate everything we do in our drills, and say, ‘OK, what do we need to tighten up on?’ ” said Dr. Chris Lowder, executive director of school operations at CCS. “That’s the kind of stuff that makes a difference.”It sounds simple, but according to experts such as Ken Trump, it’s right on the mark.Trump, a leading expert in the field of school security and frequent expert witness during congressional discussions on school safety, runs the National School Safety and Security Services, a school security-assessment firm based in Cleveland.“The first and best line of defense is always a well-trained, highly alert staff and student body,” he said. “A school has to have a crisis plan that is not sitting on a shelf, but that’s getting reviewed and the staff is getting trained on.” Since the Sandy Hook school shootings, Trump has been inundated with inquiries from superintendents looking at high-tech security measures as quick solutions. But technology isn’t the entire answer, he cautions. “It may feel good to target-harden your front doors, but what about the other 100 doors in the building?” he said. “And you can have a buzzer-camera-intercom at your door, but if the person is very busy inside and not very cautiously scrutinizing the person at the door, then the effectiveness of your technology has gone down the tubes.” Even before the recent school shootings, CCS used security cameras in and around school premises. Most schools already had a buzzer-camera-intercom at their front entrances, and those that did not are in the process of getting them installed in the coming weeks.Those are all great supplements, said Trump, which can deter or delay a criminal by seconds or minutes, and potentially save lives. But they’re not a substitute for the human factor.“School administrators need to make sure that the human aspect of security, the training of their staff, and the relationship with first responders is getting the same, if not greater attention than what you put into a piece of equipment that’s going to set up on the wall.”
Friday, Jan. 18, 2013
Don’t overlook human element in school security
After Sandy Hook, local schools reviewing drills are the on right track
Ken Trump, a leading expert in the field of school security and frequent expert witness during congressional discussions on school safety, runs the National School Safety and Security Services, a school security-assessment firm based in Cleveland.