Blog   |   Feb 4th, 2013 Securing Our Schools: Applying Three Critical Principles


The recent tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut has brought the issue of “active shooter” violence to the forefront of public discourse around the nation.

Everyone from school officials, law enforcement professionals, parents and the public at large is grappling with “How can we prevent these types of events from happening again?” While security measures are not fool-proof, use of fundamental security concepts can help reduce and manage this threat.

In “Securing Schools from Active Shooters, From the Viewpoint of a Security Professional,” I examine the importance of focusing on the first three steps of the security continuum- Deter, Detect and Delay– to provide a strong foundation for mitigating and reducing active shooter situations and interrupt the attack planning cycle.

Deterrence is a powerful step. Fundamental to its success is the ability to create uncertainty in the mind of the attacker so he doubts his ability to succeed and achieve his goals. This can be accomplished with a variety of techniques.

Detection, builds upon deterrence. This step replies upon awareness of the building and grounds as well as the people who may represent a risk to staff and students. Both physical and operational security measures are critical to this step.

The delay step involves impeding the attacker to either thwart the attack, or delay the attack until people can shelter in a safe place or law enforcement can respond. Access controls, hardening of various building features and related measures are some examples of this step. This can make a significant difference in the ability of an attacker to move unimpeded through a building. Related to this is the concept of protection in depth, or layered security.

In an ideal world, all of the steps in the security continuum would be enacted to the fullest extent possible, including Respond and Recover. Since thousands of schools struggle with funding issues, prioritization of which measures to utilize in a given setting is important. Completing a full vulnerability assessment and cost analysis will help school systems understand what they can afford.

Seeking the assistance of a professional security consultant should also be a priority. Contracting with a Certified Protection Professional (CPP) ensures that the person is qualified to evaluate risk, make recommendations based on high professional standards and best industry practices, and who participates in continuing education.

To read more about each of these principles, please download my full white paper.

What are your security challenges? What best practices have you implemented to enhance the safety of your facility and its occupants? Please share your thoughts and questions in the comments section below.

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Blog Author

Lawrence Fitzgerald, CPP, PSP

Lawrence Fitzgerald, CPP, PSP

Lawrence Fitzgerald is a Certified Protection Professional (CPP) and a Physical Security Professional (PSP) with over 30 years of experience consulting on and resolving security matters across the United States and Canada. He earned a BA from the University of Rhode Island and currently manages various staff for TRC throughout New England. Larry participated in the investigation of the 2001 terrorist attacks involving anthrax in the US mail, and he has assisted colleges and universities as well as public schools address various types of life safety and security issues. He has helped various types of Critical Infrastructure (CI) such as chemical plants, law enforcement agencies, refineries, utilities and transportation systems prepare for a terrorist attack or resolve a specific security issue. Larry co-authored the first three chapters of a 394 page security reference text book entitled “Building Vulnerability Assessments” by CRC Press published in 2009, and has presented numerous times on various topics related to security.