School security in focus

Dealers and integrators share their thoughts, discuss getting back to basics


Systems integrators have a unique perspective on security, especially as it comes to schools. They are often brought in to retrofit systems in decades old facilities, or protect sprawling premises with vast expanses of glass and windows. They also have to consider life safety egress and the ability for students to flow freely within a facility. They too carry a heavy heart and while they can do as much as possible electronically to protect these facilities, they admit that there’s no 100 percent foolproof security system. Overall, they also concur that our country needs to send a message that we will do all we can to protect our children and everyone in the U.S., no matter where they live, work or play.

The Electronic Security Association, based in Irving, Texas, released this statement on Monday, December 17:

“The loss of these children’s lives, and the lives of the adults who tried to protect them, is a tragedy beyond comprehension.  This horrendous event will push society and our industry to find ways to prevent future occurrences and we stand ready to assist in any way we can. At this time, while the facts are still coming in and the nation is in mourning, I think it is premature to try to come up with hypothetical outcomes. There is no simple answer, but to do nothing is not an option.”--John D. Knox, ESA president and president of Knox Integrated Systems, Lenoir City, Tenn.

Many of the integrators who focus on the school vertical markets—from K-12 to universities, are reinforcing their back-to-basics approach with current and prospective customers who are calling their offices fresh off one of the worst school shootings in our history. Perimeter security and layering detection and protection designed to slow down attacks, is an approach many continue to take. We spoke with several systems integrators across the country to get their perspective on the tragedy, how their business has been impacted, and what their thoughts are on school security overall.

Here’s what other alarm dealers and systems integrators had to say about the event:

Robert J. Beck, president, R.J. Beck Protective Systems Inc., Norwalk, Ohio:

“Incidents like this offend everyone’s stability and it’s beyond words,” said Bob Beck. “Friday afternoon we were getting many calls from our existing school customers, asking about additional access control or completing the last phase of their security system program upgrade. At first, I didn’t know why, because I hadn’t been watching or listening to the news. Then, I realized the magnitude of what had happened.”

“These customers were asking about access control, cameras and panic buttons. At R.J. Beck Protective Systems, we have always been a proponent of levels of security in schools, to slow down any incident. Unfortunately, you’ll never prevent it, but you slow down events so occupants have time to get out, or first responders have time to act. We also advocate ‘sally ports’ which are basically man traps where you can restrict entry to certain points of the protected premises prior to admittance.”

“We are also torn between life safety and the need for egress in the event of a fire, so this has to be considered. In the example of Sandy Hook, there should not have been glass at the entrance to the facility. Bullet proof (ballistic) glass is cost-prohibitive, so we advise against any glass at entrances.”

“This was a horrific act. You just can’t plan for this type of thing but you can try to slow it down as much as possible through proactive measures.” (Bob Beck is a former law enforcement officer and has 30 years in the security business.)

Marshall Marinace, president, Marshall Alarm Systems Inc., Yorktown Heights, N.Y. and vice president of the Electronic Security Association:

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