How GTRI Practices Could Protect Schools from Violence
As all security experts know, one of the basic principles utilized in securing buildings or institutions is controlling access onto the property and into building by using basic security measures such as security officers, fencing, bars on windows or electronic access control systems. Whether the goal is to prevent theft, identify unauthorized persons or to reduce the opportunity for violence, access control helps funnel people into entrances so they can be screened and identified while keeping unauthorized persons from accessing facilities without detection. It is an integral part of any security program and, when implemented with other security strategies, it can help to restrict, alert or identify anyone who is set on gaining entry into a facility. However, not fool-proof, physical security measures like locking doors and screening persons will not stop the person who is resolute on gaining entry into a building. Like in the case of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, stopping a crazed gun man from entering a grammar school or any building for that matter is difficult.
The Newtown shooting is the perfect example of access control that was easily overcome by a troubled yet determined individual. And while government officials work out the details of gun control and the status of our behavioral health strategy there remains many schools that are feeling vulnerable. Many local and state governments have mandated security systems and the use of uniformed, armed personnel to be situated in schools to reduce the feeling of vulnerability felt by teachers, students and parents, and provide a proactive strategy in violence reduction.
But like any immediate, reactionary fix armed personnel within our grammar schools has questionable long term sustainability. Will local law enforcement be able to continuously provide the presence of a police officer at our grammar schools in the morning when schools open, at recess when the kids are out in the fields getting exercise, at the end of the school day when kids are leaving for home and during special events and after-school programs like graduation or concerts?
Although many feel that an armed officer is the best solution to avoid the horror that precipitated in Newtown, I feel that the long-term solution to this unique and important situation is clearly the utilization of Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) techniques along with the continued review of practices that will minimize the potential for a violent event and provide quick response when an event occurs.
Having been involved with healthcare security the majority of my career, I learned eight years ago about a federal grant program that may provide a solution in the protection of our most precious resource, out young children. Immediately following 9/11, the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NCR) –along with specific states –decided to further regulate the use of radioactive material in order to protect people and the environment. Users of radioactive materials, like hospitals, have the responsibility to maintain the security and be accountable for the radioactive materials in their possession. However, 9/11 placed more emphasis on the security of preventing the malicious use of radioactive material, such as a dirty bomb. The NRC working with Federal and State governments, as well as the international community, provides safety and security requirements for radioactive materials for many industries like the oil and gas, electrical power, construction and food industries, technology research and development institutions and healthcare institutions in the treatment of patients in diagnostic and therapeutic medical procedures.
NCR established the Global Threat Reduction Initiative (GTRI) to identify, secure, remove and/or facilitate the disposition of high risk vulnerable nuclear and radiological materials that may pose a threat to the United States and the international community. GTRI works to reduce and protect vulnerable nuclear and radiological material located at civilian sites around the world. GTRI's security enhancements focus on increasing detection of unauthorized access and the delaying of the time necessary for a theft or release to occur. GTRI provides alarm response training for security and other response personnel. In-Device Delay (IDD) by installing physical security systems that delay and report any attempts to steal nuclear material located in medical diagnosis, imaging and treatment systems within hospitals. GTRI provides Table-Top Exercise materials so that hospitals can train in their response to terrorist attacks of their nuclear and radioactive materials.
The project solicited security experts in order to determine the best security solutions that protect radiological sources. These standard methods and practices are used to develop a custom program for each institution. The program provides all of the funding in order to design the system, install the system and maintain it for three years. The hospital does not have to provide a penny, and the design and installation vendors are paid directly. The program is invaluable for hospitals wishing to secure their radiological sources at no cost. NRC’s threat assessment program has provided funding that has hardened access to nuclear materials in hospitals across the country. This funding provides all of us with a safer, more secure environment dramatically reducing the threat of a dirty bomb exploding here in the United States. So my question is: Why can’t the Department of Education provide funding and legislation similar to the GTRI project in order to help target harden our grammar schools and train our teachers to respond to active shooter and violent type events?
So why hasn’t the Federal government, along with state and local government partners, provided this exact same service to our grammar schools? The GRTI initiative has made available funds to provide security systems that have target-hardened radioactive sources, provided training for security and police and have assisted with training materials to exercise on theft or release scenarios. I have personally seen this program in action numerous times in hospitals across the country, and its results have been great.
Right now the Federal Government, along with state and local governments, mandates the implementation of annual exercises and training in active shooter response in grammar schools. But the program needs to take the next step, like the GTRI program the Federal government needs to provide funding that will target harden all of our grammar schools in order to create a safer environment for our youngest resource. Focus on security enhancements that will increase detection of unauthorized access and the delaying of the time necessary for a proper response. The project should solicit security experts in order to determine the best security solutions that protect our children in school and utilize these standard methods and practices to develop a custom program for each school. The program should provide all of the funding in order to design, install and maintain the system without requiring the school to provide a penny of the cost for the design and installation. And when that task is complete we need to then work on our secondary schools. There should never be situation where funding is not available to better secure our school children.