By Gina Stuelke, CEO of Kenton Brothers
For Kenton Brothers, ensuring the safety and security of students, teachers, and staff in schools across the country is of paramount importance. In recent years, the need for robust physical security measures in school districts has become increasingly evident due to unfortunate incidents of violence and threats. One of our areas of expertise is commercial security solutions for school districts, and recent news about safety grant awards for Missouri schools caught our attention.
On June 30, 2023, Governor Mike Parson signed House Bill No. 2 for Fiscal Year 2024 (FY2024) which appropriated $50 million in funding for a second round of School Safety Grants to support physical safety improvements in local education agencies (LEAs) and nonpublic schools (NPSs) across the state. These funds will be distributed through the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s FY24 School Safety Grant Program. These grants were awarded to almost 500 Missouri schools in September. (For a complete list of Missouri schools receiving these funds, click here.)
10 Ways These Funds Could Be Used to Improve School Safety
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has outlined various recommendations for enhancing school security. In this article, we discuss the top 10 physical security upgrades that school districts must consider implementing immediately, based on DHS guidelines.
1. Access Control Systems
One of the first and foremost security upgrades school districts should make is implementing an access control system. These systems restrict unauthorized entry into school buildings by requiring individuals to use credentials, such as key cards, PINs, or biometric data, to gain access. Properly designed access control systems can significantly reduce the risk of unauthorized individuals entering school premises and pose a crucial layer of school security. All Access control systems implemented in schools should include door position sensors to report when doors are propped open or forced open anywhere around the exterior of the building.
DHS Recommendation: DHS emphasizes the importance of access control systems to deter and detect intruders. Schools should consider a layered approach that includes access control points at all building entrances.
2. IP Video Surveillance Cameras
Surveillance cameras play a crucial role in monitoring school premises and deterring criminal activity. Modern cameras come equipped with advanced features such as high-definition recording, night vision, and motion detection. Placing cameras strategically in and around school buildings can help identify and document suspicious behavior.
DHS Recommendation: The DHS recommends schools install surveillance cameras at key locations, including entrances, hallways, parking lots, and outdoor areas. Additionally, schools should consider integrating their camera systems with an alarm monitoring service.
3. Intrusion Detection Systems
Intrusion detection systems are designed to detect unauthorized access to buildings and alert security personnel or authorities immediately. These systems can be connected to doors, windows, and other access points, triggering alarms in the event of a breach. Early detection of intruders is critical for swift response and mitigation.
DHS Recommendation: DHS encourages the use of intrusion detection systems and recommends regular testing and maintenance to ensure their effectiveness.
4. Bulletproof Glass and Ballistic Barriers
Incorporating bulletproof glass and ballistic barriers in critical areas of school buildings can provide an extra layer of protection against armed threats. These materials are designed to withstand various levels of impact and can buy precious time for security personnel and occupants during an active shooter situation. There have been large, innovative strides in this technology recently. These innovations include fire and escape improvements all allowing for quicker egress.
DHS Recommendation: The DHS recommends considering the use of bulletproof glass and ballistic barriers in areas such as main entrances and administrative offices.
5. Visitor Management Systems
A visitor management system is a digital solution that helps schools monitor and control visitor access. These systems require visitors to register upon entry, provide identification, and undergo background checks when necessary. By implementing visitor management systems, schools can better control who enters their premises.
DHS Recommendation: The DHS suggests that schools should have a clear visitor policy in place, including the use of visitor management systems, to enhance security.
6. Security Fencing
Security fencing is another essential security upgrade. It provides a physical barrier to deter intruders and prevent unauthorized access to the school grounds. Fencing can be combined with controlled entry points, surveillance cameras, and alarm systems to create a comprehensive security solution.
DHS Recommendation: According to DHS guidelines, school districts should ensure that fencing is properly maintained, adequately secured, and complements other security measures that are in place.
7. Security Lighting
Proper lighting can significantly improve the security of school premises, as it deters criminals and enhances surveillance capabilities. Well-lit areas also help students and staff feel safer when entering or exiting school buildings during dark hours.
DHS Recommendation: The DHS suggests that schools evaluate their outdoor lighting and consider upgrading to motion-activated lighting in vulnerable areas
8. Panic Alarms
In emergency situations, quick communication with law enforcement is vital. Panic alarms, often connected to local police departments, enable immediate alerts in case of threats or emergencies. These alarms can be discreetly activated by school personnel and trigger a rapid response from law enforcement agencies.
DHS Recommendation: DHS emphasizes the importance of panic alarms for notifying authorities in real-time during security incidents.
9. Lockdown Procedures and Hardware
Effective lockdown procedures are crucial for safeguarding students and staff during emergencies. Schools should invest in secure locks and hardware for classroom and office doors to ensure that they can be easily locked and barricaded from the inside during a lockdown. Training staff and students on these procedures is equally important.
DHS Recommendation: The DHS recommends that schools develop and practice lockdown procedures regularly, including drills and training sessions. They also advise installing locks that can be locked from the inside without requiring keys.
10. Security Training and Education
Last but certainly not least, the DHS strongly emphasizes the importance of security training and education for school staff and students. Ensuring that everyone is well-informed about security protocols, emergency procedures, and situational awareness can greatly enhance the overall safety of the school environment. Even the greatest systems will not have any value if the people that use them every day don’t understand how to use them effectively.
DHS Recommendation: Regular training and education programs should be implemented to teach staff and students how to recognize and respond to security threats effectively.
The safety and security of our schools must be a top priority. By following the Department of Homeland Security’s recommendations and implementing these top 10 physical security upgrades, school districts can create a safer and more secure environment for students, teachers, and staff. It’s essential for schools to remain vigilant, regularly assess their security measures, and adapt to emerging threats to ensure the protection of their educational communities.
Kenton Brothers Systems for Security works closely with school districts and universities all over the Midwest to create effective, manageable security systems. Give us a call today to have our team of certified security consultants help create your plan.