classroom, kids, teacher, school safety
Photo by Neon Brand
The classroom is a vulnerable place, which is why it is a target for mass shooters. School safety is paramount.

As a nation, we have long been, and most probably still are, in denial about the school safety. Most people possess an “it won’t happen here” mindset. Psychologist and retired U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel David Grossman says, “Denial is a save-now-pay-later scheme, a contract written entirely in small print, for in the long run, the denying person knows the truth on some level.”

The Attack

In Newtown, Connecticut, the attack—from the time of entry to the moment the madman, upon hearing law enforcement arriving on the scene, put his gun in his mouth—lasted three minutes. Three minutes, as it happens, is the average time frame for these acts of “targeted violence,” as the U.S. Secret Service School Shooter study calls them.

With at best only three minutes to respond, law enforcement will most likely arrive on scene after the maniac has completed his or her deadly massacre. This doesn’t give the good guys the chance to engage. Schools and other soft targets need to employ strategies and technologies that will deter, diminish and debilitate an attacker and their means and method of attack, allowing law enforcement the time to arrive on scene and engage these deadly threats.

Access Control

Every school in the United States should have controlled access points that can secure a person in a secure confined area, allowing time for the staff to assess whether that individual is friend or foe. They schools also need to employ “panic alarms” that will automatically lock down the entire school, by closing every entry and fire door in the building, restricting access to most of the building.

The control points should have, as the rest of a school, a video surveillance system to monitor activities both within and outside of a school building. This also allows law enforcement the capability to tap into the system and see, in real time, what is occurring.

Maglocks offers a complete and modular building access system that can include both electronic, key and code operated access points. This type of system allows the most flexibility to control access in and out of a school, including personalizing individual access codes, so you know who is coming and going from a school and panic alarms.

Honeywell also offers a variety of security systems designed to control ingress into any building and potentially secure an unwanted intruder in a confined area, making it easy for arriving law enforcement to find them. They also offer a surveillance system capable of putting “eyes” on every area of a school and a panic alarm features.

Every door should be constructed of either solid wood or steel. Unfortunately, most school doors feature at least a measure of glass, creating a vulnerable point.

School Safety: Invisible Armor

Retrofitting existing door glass can be expensive and complicated. Thankfully, many companies offer technologies that bolster existing door glass, giving it some level of armor capability. Additionally, armored glass is a great way to help restrict or redirect movements in buildings without the barrier looking like a wall.

ROK Protective Systems states that it has pioneered the lightest, thinnest and most affordable ballistic and hurricane-resistant glass application on the market today, one that can be applied to any existing glass, without the need for replacement or retrofitting. ROK Shield is a non-toxic, water-based chemical formulation that actually penetrates glass by filling in its structural pores, hardening the glass and bonding security film to it.

Applied Ballistic Films, or ABF, offers several different types of ballistic film for up-armoring glass without the need to retrofit or change it. ABF offers a range of ballistic films for almost every type of glass and thickness. Protective Armored Systems also offers clear solutions for your security needs. They make and create a complete line of ballistic glass reinforcements that can be applied, created for or retrofitted to any piece of glass in the building.

Early Warning Systems

Many alarm companies offer all-inclusive alarm systems that can be integrated into an existing commercial building, providing mass-notification systems that give the intended victims the crucial extra seconds to evacuate the space. Some of these alarms are activated wirelessly and can do more than just make sounds. Closing doors, windows and securing areas is what “soft” targets such schools should be looking to do. Such measures will diminish attack opportunities for a would-be murderer and lock them into an area where they can be found by law enforcement and dealt with.

The one issue with most of these off-the-shelf products is that, while they can sound an alarm, they are not geared toward debilitating or demoralizing an attacker.

Long Range Acoustic Devices has developed and produced a sound-amplification system that, as the company states “allows you to communicate clearly to people and be understood.” LRAD offers several platforms, from small/portable to large/ship-mounted. During the G20 summit in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, LRAD systems were used to control and disburse protest groups; on the high seas they’ve has been used to ward off Somali pirates and talk suspects out of residences. For schools, a mounted LRAD system has the double benefit of serving both as a schools clear announcement system and a “sound cannon” whose disorienting emergency alarm, with its sound and bright lights, can impede an attackers ability to ingress into a school.

Medical Care

When it does happen, the Golden Hour is actually golden seconds. Every second increases the chances of survival, and if we think and plan realistically, without denial, we should be prepared to render aid to the wounded.

The Tactical Medical Pack Tac-Pack was developed for government purposes by leading trauma surgeon Dr. Maurizio A. Miglietta, a pioneering voice in the trauma care field. Dr. Miglietta created trauma kits small enough to be carried in a suit pocket, purse or tactical pant pocket. Each kit offers essential lifesaving items capable of treating various traumatic injuries. The trauma pack’s unique design and packaging allow it to be used as an everyday carry item. According to Dr. Miglietta, “Its size, cost and shape make it a must have for anyone at risk for injury.”

The Tactical Medical Solutions Active Shooter Response Kit (ARK) provides individuals responding to active-shooter situations with the equipment necessary to render aid and initiate evacuation of multiple casualties. With multiple storage compartments the ARK works not only for basic treatment. Medics moving with the clearing element can distribute the throw kits as needed while maintaining more advanced equipment in the side pockets for treatment of the more severely injured if necessary.


In Newtown, a local psychopath got hold of a gun and went on a rampage as a “weapon of mass destruction” in an elementary school. It was the eighth act of mass gun violence to occur in 2012 and the sixth to occur in a school. The denial must stop. We need to think of mass shooting as we think of fires: It’s not a matter of if, but when. Choices need to be made that may be difficult, and some may be controversial, but one thing is for sure—with the technologies and engineering capabilities available today, these “soft targets” could and should be up-armored.

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