by Chris Heaton - Vice President for Advocacy and Public Affairs
The murder of more innocent children in Parkland, Florida serves as the latest reminder that the country is far from solving societal and political issues related to mass shootings.
It is a gut-wrenching reality that can make one feel helpless — we are consistently witnessing senseless tragedies like that of Las Vegas, Newtown and now Parkland.
Rather than debate mental health and gun control issues, I'd like to take the opportunity to discuss what we as an industry can do. How we, an industry that plays a role in helping to keep people, places and things safe, can do something.
Let’s look at “how” these shootings occur and “what” can be done. As one radio pundit put it, the next shooter is out there and already has the gun(s) he or she is planning to use. So does the shooter after that and the one after that — so on and so forth. They are already armed.
How do we, as a society, protect the most vulnerable? As someone with a background in law enforcement — and having worked in this industry for almost six years now, I look at “how” our country holistically can prevent or mitigate these massacres from a different perspective.
It seems we have several realistic options that can be deployed together or separately, in the short-term and beyond. I believe security technology can make a difference in deterring the next attack.
Access Control – It is critical that schools get serious about access control, video monitoring and electronic security measures. As the diagram demonstrates, the Parkland shooter came through a stairwell door and immediately pulled a fire alarm to create maximum carnage.
How did he get through that door? Why was it not secure? Those are the most immediate questions to answer, because he otherwise would have had to try to shoot his way through the main entrance, rapidly decreasing his opportunity to kill before students and faculty went through lock-down.
All doors on school campuses should allow for egress only, unless mechanical or electronic access control is bypassed by authorized personnel. Classrooms should also have the same measures by which doors immediately lock when classes begin and the door is closed.
Video surveillance of the campus provides an extra layer of protection and potential early warning, should there be a breach of access control or suspicious activity.
Electronic Security and Alarm Systems – When there is a breach of access control by unauthorized entry through doors designated for egress only, there should be immediate notification and action by students and faculty.
The Parkland shooter took advantage of two things; easy entry into a school undetected through a door designed for egress and a fire alarm panel, which he used to draw victims out of the classroom. If that door was locked from the outside and remained so, the outcome would have been different.
Metal Detection and Routine Searches – This technology is a costly but fundamental means that can be deployed to deter a threat from within — such as, a current student or personnel who chooses to ignore laws and bring a gun (or guns) on campus.
Shootings like those in Newtown and Parkland distract us from another real possibility, like that in Columbine, where current students plan and carry out a massacre.
Just about all college and professional sporting events have metal detection and bag checks, where thousands of people are ushered through in a seamless manner. It may seem unreasonable and costly, but this security measure deserves more attention.
I pray for all those impacted by these tragedies. As a father with a 16-year-old girl in high school, I have the same fear that all parents with children in school have after such senseless acts of violence.
As a society, we must get serious about protecting our children and do what we can do, now. And as an industry we can play the vital role of deterring the next attack.
ESA’s official stance of school safety, download the ESA’s Electronic Security Guidelines for Schools White Paper.