Working with architects, engineers, and school facilities personnel on hundreds of school construction projects, our school security experts have often find that local public safety officials are often not asked to assist with the design phase for new school construction and renovation projects. Our school security experts feel this is a missed opportunity to improve the safety, security and emergency preparedness for schools and support facilities.
About fifteen years ago, I conducted a school security assessment that included an eight story school district office building in a high crime urban environment. A municipal police sergeant was assigned to show me around the facilities we assessed. Over the course of the assessment, I learned that this particular officer had a truly astounding base of knowledge of physical security systems, crime prevention through environmental design (CPTED) and other areas relevant to school security. When I asked the sergeant how he knew so much about these topics, I learned that he had been assigned to lead the protective detail for the mayor of the city which has a population above one million people. The officer had completed months of intensive training on physical security technologies, CPTED as well as advanced training on dignitary protection by the United States Secret Service. It turns out that this officer had far more formal training and field experience than many full-time school security experts who serve as school safety consultants on a full-time basis.
I asked the sergeant if they had allowed him to assist in the design of the building. He told me that the response from the school district’s facility director was that there was nothing a police officer could teach an architect. As a result of this poor decision, the district would now have to spend more than $500,000 in corrective construction and security technology upgrades because of serious design flaws. In each case, this sergeant had tried to tell school officials would be problematic when he was finally allowed look at the final building plan. They brushed his suggestions aside, built the facility, and then brought me in after a series of security incidents took place at the facility. Had they allowed this sergeant in to assist the architects and listed to him, they would likely have not needed to bring me in to help them identify and fix the problems he could have helped them prevent.
I have seen many examples of schools that are superbly designed because local police, fire and emergency managers have been brought to the table early in the design process. This approach not only results in safer and more effective schools, but can reduce exposure to civil liability as well. While our school security experts love this type of work, we always ask our clients to involve their local public safety experts in the design process. This is a typical topic in our school safety design conference keynote presentations.
Consider taking advantage of the dedicated and talented school safety experts in your community for school construction projects.