K-12 Security: Keeping Kids Safe

Technology and procedures go hand-in-hand when creating a safe school environment


In August, my five-year-old son began kindergarten — his first foray into the world of our public school system. Besides being able to choose his own lunch in the cafeteria, and of course, recess, one of his most fascinating activities in two weeks of school was a pair of fire drills.

He recounted the experiences to me in explicit detail — how he must stand in a line, remain quiet and move in an orderly fashion to the nearest exit. The security person in me definitely likes the immediate attention paid to evacuation drills by the school administration, as those drills are perhaps the most important element to keeping our kids safe in school. In fact, just three weeks into his schooling, there was a security incident at a neighboring elementary.

You may have heard about it — a clearly emotionally disturbed individual found his way into an Atlanta elementary school office with his AK-47 assault rifle (Read SecurityInfoWatch coverage of the incident at www.securityinfowatch.com/11121931).

Less than three weeks into the school year, the entire school was in danger, and thankfully, they enacted their already well-practiced evacuation plans. Every student exited the building in an orderly, quiet fashion — just as they had been taught so recently — even as the active shooter scenario was playing out just yards away, with the suspect exchanging fire with police.

When it was discovered that the suspect’s vehicle may have been laden with explosives, fast-thinking school officials cut a hole in a perimeter fence and further evacuated the students to a nearby Wal-Mart and out of harm’s way.

It was an unqualified success — no students were injured, and thanks to the help and quick thinking of some of the school’s office staff, the gunman gave up without anyone being injured. But the underlying theme here is that a school well-trained in evacuation and emergency procedures has a much greater chance of escaping from a potentially dangerous situation — be it active shooters, or fire or natural disaster.

Beyond the evacuation procedures, you, the security integrator, undoubtedly understand the role that technology and safe design play in maintaining a safe and secure campus. The proper access control technology, for example, would have kept the Atlanta gunman limited to just the front office, if the school deployed an emergency lockdown feature to automatically lock every door in the facility. Design strategies, such as a locked-down entrance vestibule, might have kept that gunman locked in a mantrap until the police arrived.

The articles in this section will help you to envision what technologies — from visitor management to surveillance, to access control and more — can work together to create the safest-possible campus for our children. You will learn about emergency lockdown technologies, personal duress systems, situation awareness in the classroom, and emergency communications and mass notification. You will also learn how to design, implement and ultimately sell these technological improvements to schools and their administrators.

With the right combination of technology and emergency procedures, every potential incident like the one in Atlanta will end the same way — with safe, unharmed students and staff members, and the bad guy(s) in custody.