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Schools weigh options for safety as classes start up for fall

Security consultants have been busy this summer
Schools weigh options for safety as classes start up for fall
Posted at 3:14 PM, Aug 01, 2022

At Jefferson County Public Schools, administrators and teachers are preparing for the upcoming school year.

“This is the school response protocol that we use,” said Jeff Pierson, the interim executive director for the Department of School Safety at Jefferson County Public Schools.

Like many school districts, they are preparing to keep kids safe this fall. The recent events in Uvalde added to the burden many safety experts face.

“This year, some of our big points of emphasis are really around logical thinking around your building. What types of things do you need to be knowledgeable around locked doors? What type of doors are accessible to people?” Pierson said.

For security consulting companies, it’s been a busy summer.

“We’ve been pretty busy getting contacted by schools from the elementary school level through high school and even colleges. They’ve contacted us to come in and do security assessments,” Joe Lawless, a security consultant and Senior Security and Transportation Specialist at The Edward David Company, said.

Lawless looks at what technologies and systems schools have in place, the training and drills they practice, and their relationship with local law enforcement.

“The first thing we do is go into these schools and we do a physical security assessment. We look at locks, closed circuit television, buzzers, buzz people in and out, access control,” he explained.

There’s a lot of focus on the basics. But they also look at what’s being discussed industry-wide.

“I think at the national level, you're always going to hear about the latest and greatest,” Pierson said.

“There’s a lot of fad issues that come on and some of those are very good. Some of those items are very useful in the case of a shooting,” Lawless said.

From bulletproof backpacks and whiteboards to new safety systems, new products pop up frequently with the purpose of helping protect schools.

“The inquiries have increased greatly since the last shooting, just based off what our product is and does,” Peter Facchini, the co-founder and CEO of ProtectED Rooms, said.

Protected rooms, which was started a couple years ago, designed a mobile piece of furniture that fits into classrooms. These bookcases are built with bullet resistant panels and a latch system.

“It’s designed to be rolled in front of an opening or a door from inside the room and latched to the wall,” Facchini explained.

Another company, National Safety Shelters, took an existing tornado shelter already in production and turned it into a multipurpose safety pod or room, depending on the size.

“It’s best not to let somebody in the school in the first place, but as we’ve seen throughout the last 20 year or so, even when some schools have those things in place, they don't always prevent the person from getting in,” Dennis Corrado, the president and co-founder of National Safety Shelters, said. “What we’re offering is a safety net should those things fail.”

Lawless said these are great tools, but they should supplement what is already in place.

“You can't lose sight of your training, what the protocols are,” he said.

“It’s about making sure you keep it what we call safety 101. Locking doors, ensuring that the things that you do every single day, muscle memory, drills with kids, those things are very important to us,” Pierson said.