School safety is an ever-present concern, especially in regards to preventing active shooter situations. Security leaders have begun to complement existing security programs with a Random Antiterrorism Measures Program (RAMP) that involves implementing multiple security measures in a random fashion to change the appearance of critical infrastructure/key resources. Could a similar security approach prevent or deter an active shooter in an educational setting?

The Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) attack planning cyle and the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) Pathway to Violence provides examples of when a randomness approach may have the most affect. Remember, terrorist (and, active shooters) looks at procedures, routines, people and security measures.

DHS terrorist attack planning cycle

  1. Preliminary target selection
  2. Individual surveillance
  3. Final target selection
  4. Pre-attack surveillance
  5. Planning
  6. Rehearsal
  7. Execution
  8. Escape & exploitation

Pathway to violence

  1. Grievances
  2. Ideation
  3. Research & Planning
  4. Pre-Attack Preparation
  5. Probing & Breaching
  6. Attack

Enhancing security through a randomness concept requires open mindedness, buy-in and empowerment. Expect some “old school” resistance of “that’s not going to work.”  Of course, getting buy-in from executive staff will be important, but including all levels, including security officers, will lay the groundwork for success. Encourage creativity from everyone. Random measures should also reduce complacency that seems to creep into security programs that may have been part of the problem in the recent attacks on Israel.

Ideas to implement a randomness component, and to get others thinking:

  • Vary patrol (foot, bike and vehicle) times and routes — undoubtedly the most effective, but often the most difficult to accomplish to persuade others to break routines and patterns.
  • Occasionally station security in front of buildings and greet students as they enter. 
  • Request local police to occasionally drive through campus, or even eat lunch in the cafeteria.
  • Randomly check entrance doors at different times, and spend a variety of times at campus entrance locations and ingress routes to classroom buildings.
  • Periodically police turn on the lights for a few minutes at different locations on campus and athletic venues.
  • Ask local police to conduct K9 and other training on campus.
  • Vary times of required activities, like fire drills.
  • Conduct security meetings at different locations other than in the security office.
  • Occasionally enhance security officer presence for no apparent reason.
  • Although active shooter incidents generally happen during the school day, drop by athletic events, club meetings, etc.
  • Invite nearby municipal first responders to campus, including those with visible markings (fire department, special operations police, etc.)
  • Random bag checks or wanding at random locations (not for all schools).
  • Park security vehicles in different locations.
  • Consider drone flights in differ areas of campus.
  • Encourage security offices to eat in the cafeteria at different times. 
  • Programs to enhance safety on campus, but also increase security/police presence:
    • Coffee with a cop (or something similar)
    • Campus Safety Day
    • Seat belt checks at intersections
    • Participating in “special” focused programs (national preparedness month, fire safety week, alcohol awareness week, etc., although these types of programs are typically at the same time periods each year)

Although security leads the randomness effort, others should be asked to participate, including:

  • School leadership: Simply getting out of the office and being visible.
  • Grounds can vary their routine as well — mowing, leaf blowing, etc.

Randomness also serves as a great crime prevention technique. And, it is crucial to train security and others on benefits of the program, what to look for within the detection phase and truly grasp the importance of situational awareness and what constitutes an anomaly on campus.

All simple suggestions that could disrupt the planning, preparedness and pre-attack efforts of an active shooter. The additional visibility may also enhance relationships with students as well as increase the safety and security confidence on campus.  

Enhancing trained security officers and police presence on campus, campus wide involvement, a variety of security technologies (CCTV, drones, weapons detection, access control, etc.), and executive support may be the backbone of a successful security program, but something as simple as implementing a randomness to security measures should be considered to deter, and possibly prevent, a school attacker.