When building new schools, architects make sure to embed safety features into the design, but what about older schools? How can they be retrofitted to make schools safer?
In the August issue of National School Boards Association’s publication American School Board Journal, Paul Timm, the vice president of physical security at Facilities Engineering Associates and one of our School Safety Talks webinar presenters, highlights way schools can upgrade buildings, both older and newly constructed ones, to help deter crises.
Timm emphasizes that all schools should focus on access control, including have a single point of entry, a secure vestibule at the main entrance, and doors that latch and lock properly. While many schools have vestibules at the main entrance, Timm advises schools to retrofit their vestibules with a pass-through window into the main office. Once visitors come through the initial door, they pass their ID through the window, state their purpose for visiting, and then enter the building only after the office determines their purpose is legitimate. All schools should ensure the vegetation around their buildings is trimmed and the exterior lighting is bright to limit areas where potential intruders could lay-in-wait for an opportunity to gain entrance to the building.
Timm warns older schools tend to have less open layouts than newly constructed schools. These schools should survey their campus for nooks and crannies that make good hiding spots for perpetrators – including locker banks – and they should uniformly label hallways/wings and communicate this terminology with first responders.
Timm also provides guidance for how to make newly constructed schools safer, including using laminated or bullet-resistant glass, creating safe places in “open learning environments,” and more.
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