- Size of School and Student Population
The physical size of a particular school, age of the building(s), its student population and classroom infrastructure will dictate the approach and likely threat level for that school. The larger the school, the more exterior doors that may represent specific vulnerabilities. Older schools will almost certainly have more overall glass area and there may be classrooms with both a corridor door and an exterior to an outside area.
- Type of School (High School, Middle School, Elementary, Early Learning,etc)
Initially, High Schools were considered the primary targets for Mass Casualty events. That has now changed to include Middle Schools and particularly Elementary Schools following some of the worst Mass Casualty events at Elementary Schools.
- Layout of Each School
The layout of a school can be critically important in assessing potential vulnerabilities. Close tree lines bordering classrooms, outside play areas, positioning of hallways, cafeteria location, classrooms in annex or temporary structures are all factors that should be taken into account.
- Main Entry Access
All exterior entry points to a school should be firmly secure and that is particularly true of the Main Entrance. Ideally, there should be a vestibule area with controlled access, camera surveillance and an intercom arrangement allowing school reception staff to monitor both the exterior doors and inner vestibule doors. Intruders should not be able to walk in to a school without verification.
- Geographic Disposition
Urban locations versus suburban locations play a part in establishing a credible threat level and typically the crime rates in an urban area are significantly higher than those in a suburban area. Rural areas have low crime rates but it should also be noted that rural areas have also suffered major school incidents.
- Faculty and Security
An important element in assessing schools is how faculty members feel and react to security systems and measures. The most advanced and clear security will have problems where there is resistance and non-acceptance by classroom faculty.
- Superintendent and Security
The Superintendent’s thoughts and input concerning school security is critical in identifying vulnerabilities and possible solutions to same. Keeping the Superintendent and key staff up-to-date during the SVA process will identify potential solution issues and avoid surprises when presenting the SVA Report.
- Administrative Staff and Security
It is also important to understand how staff members feel and react to security systems and measures. School office staff and their control of visitor access to the respective school is a key component of school security.
- Drop Off Procedures & Pick Up Procedures
One of the most vulnerable factors in school security is the dropping off and picking up of students, particularly where there are both school busses and parent vehicles doing so. Wivenhoe Security Group has been successful in recommending changes that has increased safety and reduced the security risk where there has been heavy traffic situations.
- Existing Security Systems and Measures
The consultant team carefully evaluates existing security at a school covering the following:
Access Control Electronic and Physical, Integration, Age and Types of Equipment, etc.
Video Surveillance Adequate Surveillance Coverage, Effectiveness, Age of Cameras, Types of Cameras, Monitoring, Integration with other security systems, etc.
Alarm Systems Activation, Integration, Monitoring, etc.
Perimeter Control Perimeter Fencing, Video Motion Detection, Analytics, Vehicle Control, etc.
Mass Casualty Containment Systems, First Responder
Prevention Communication Procedures, etc.
Security System Investment Identifying What Existing Components can be saved and integrated with New and Improved Security System. A school district’s investment in security can often be substantial and steps should be taken to preserve that investment if possible.
- Police Presence
Local or State, Nearest Station, Community Police Officer, All Schools, etc.
- Parent Attitude
The consultant team will endeavor to assess how Parents have reacted to prior security policy decisions.
- Emergency Response
Given the number of mass casualty events that have taken place in schools over the past few years, it is vital that any school district have an ERP (Emergency Response Plan) that includes the latest thinking in dealing with a security emergency, particularly an active shooter scenario. There should also be in place a School Security Policy document that clearly defines and describes the responsibility of faculty, staff, students, and others with respect to security policy and protocols.
- Specific Threat Scenarios
To develop security recommendations for individual schools, it is necessary to identify specific threat scenarios that could occur at a particular school. Based on actual school situations involving Wivenhoe Group consultants, some examples are as follows:
Scenario Example 1.
A school cafeteria’s rear, all glass paneled wall (floor to ceiling) faced out to an open area that included a public foot path bordered by an established tree line and heavy shrubbery. The height of the cafeteria rear window area was approximately 20 ft., the glass was older, standard glass with metal frames, neither of which was reinforced and there were no blinds on the windows. As such, it would be extremely easy for an individual to hide within the tree line and tall shrubbery, armed with a military grade rifle such as an AR-15 firing .223 or 5.6 rounds which would easily penetrate the glass window panels and cause total carnage within the cafeteria. It is unfortunate that most people are unaware of the higher projectile speeds of such weapons (can liquefy organs) and a condition called cavitation, (whereby, as a projectile passes through tissue, it creates a large cavity.) The end result is horrific, as witnessed by a number of mass casualty events where AR-15s were used.
Scenario Example 2.
In the same cafeteria situation described above, it would also be possible for individuals to take photos from a distance with a telephoto lens of young female students and their friends at lunch for predator purposes. Using such photos and pretending to be one of the young females in the photos in order to lure young females via the Internet for sexual purposes.
Scenario Example 3.
At a different school setting, there was an open environment surrounding school buildings with play areas outside for young students to go out to via specific exterior doors albeit under supervision. Although there were cameras covering many of these play area access points, there was no live monitoring of the cameras. Thus it would be possible for an adversary to wait outside these access points and as the doors were opened, force their way into the school, or otherwise gain access. The Wivenhoe Group consulting teams have observed many, many more threat scenarios and that experience is enhanced with every new school district SVA assignment.
- Target Attractiveness
Another primary factor to be taken into account during a School District SVA is that of Target Attractiveness caused by the following:
- Size and number of Elementary Schools and possible Early Learning Centers.
Terrorists and Adversaries have taken note of the public’s overwhelming response to the involvement of younger children in a heinous event.
- Based on existing security systems and measures, is the School District and respective schools considered a “soft” target?
Factors that determine “soft” target in the minds of adversaries might include the following:
- Inadequate protection levels safeguarding students.
- Small town limited police department.
- Inability of local SWAT team to respond quickly.
- Large numbers of elementary students.
- Proximity to prior mass casualty event setting up considerable media attention and shock effect.
- No SRO (School Resource Officer) within schools.
Significant parent pick-up within a set environment
Providing the potential in the event of a mass casualty event for panic, confusion and congestion in an open perimeter.
- Diversionary Target
A tactic by terrorists and adversaries is to initiate an apparent active shooter alarm at a facility, particularly a school where they know there will be an immediate response by both local and regional law enforcement, emergency services and Federal agencies away from what may be the real target elsewhere in the area. Given the above situation, it is thus important to research and assess other target situations which could include any of the following:
- Prestigious or specific Universities in the general area.
- Critical transportation facilities such as ports, airports, ferry terminals.
- Critical transportation infrastructure in the general area such as tunnels, and bridges.
- Major Hospitals.
- Sports Complex.
- Nuclear Power Plant in general area.
- Other Factors
Each School District may have other factors contributing to their overall vulnerability which may include:
a). Are there high profile parents with students in the school district?
Major Local, State & Federal Politicians.
High Profile Attorneys.
Judges, Local, State & Federal.
Primary Business Owners.
b). Are there students linked to military facilities in the area?
c). Are there significant Ethnic Groups in the area?
K12 SCHOOL DISTRICT – CONNECTICUT
Wivenhoe Management Group had carried out an original SVA for this school district in 2013 as sub-consultants for a major consulting group who had security consultants but none with expertise in SVAs. The security recommendations emanating from the SVA Report were then taken over by the major consulting group.
Wivenhoe Group were contacted by the recently appointed new Superintendent of the school district and asked to carry out an SVA Reassessment as there were questions concerning how many of the original SVA recommendations had actually been implemented and there appeared to be problems with some of the security systems now installed.
Wivenhoe Group accepted the assignment and commenced by first of all reassessing the prior threat analysis.
An updated Threat Assessment is an integral part of any SVA Reassessment, being a comprehensive listing and analysis of all threats that likely affect the safety and security of everyone associated with the day-to-day operation of the school, including students, faculty staff, administration staff, maintenance staff, parents, visitors, vendors, delivery services personnel and others.
A school district in CT is required to update their SVA every two years as stipulated in the Connecticut Public Act 13-3, An Act Concerning Gun Violence Prevention and Children’s Safety, and further recommended in the report by the Connecticut School Safety Infrastructure Council.
In today’s K12 school environment and particularly so following the May 22, 2022 mass casualty event at the Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, the most serious threat is that of an active shooter, or as the DHS and FBI now term, a Mass Casualty event. It is a threat that must be taken very seriously as where such an event was considered an unforeseen risk situation previously, that is no longer the case. Such an event is now labeled foreseeable and school districts in particular must now take steps to minimize and/or prevent an active shooter circumstance and certainly be able to respond quickly and responsibly, following given guidelines developed by Federal Agencies and State and Local Law Enforcement.
The consultant team conducted a new Threat Assessment utilizing an updated CAP Risk Report covering a three and six mile radius of the school district location. This was followed by then studying all vulnerability factors as described at the beginning of this article and comparing the latest findings with the original 2013 SVA Report.
The result was an increase in the Threat Level. This became the basis for establishing the level of protection required for the school district. In parallel, the team had also assessed the school district’s current security systems and physical measures and these were assessed against the threat level.
In the original 2013 SVA, the consultant team had identified some 101 main recommendations including 169 specific recommendations, under the General Priorities of:
- Improve Building Access Control
- Improve Parking/Site Control
- Improve Interior Building Control
- Improve & Integrate Electronic Security
- Expand & Integrate Physical Security Interaction
- Improve Security Procedures
The consultant team carried out a thorough study of all 2013 SVA recommendations and found that the school district had implemented approximately 50% of the SVA recommendations. With respect to the 50% that were not implemented, the team identified the following main areas of concern:
- Integrated Security System – Has Not Happened
- – No Updates Since 2013
- Intrusion System – Non-Integration with Security Management System
- Classroom Exterior Doors – Propped Open for a Variety of Reasons
- Lack of Live Drills – Active Shooter in Particular
- Lack of Security Design Criteria – Cameras Main Culprit
- Video Surveillance System – Ineffective Camera Coverage, Main 2013 Server in Process of Failing & No Video Surveillance Plan
- Community Police Officer– Not Being Properly Utilized & with Limited Hours of Operation
- No Security Plan – No Plan for Protecting Current Security Investment, Upwards Compatibility, Expansion, etc.
The results of the SVA Reassessment Assignment can be summarized under the following major components:
- Assisted the school district in avoiding a near disaster concerning the total failure of their video surveillance system.
- Ascertained that the school district did not have an Integrated Security System as recommended in the original SVA. Presented a minimal cost solution to develop such a system utilizing existing equipment.
- Positioned school district in updating all software and firmware for existing systems as part of system upgrade.
- Assisted the school district in avoiding replacement of existing classroom “lockdown” system which was triggering serious alarm situation with simple fix to system.
- Able to allow school district to resolve propped open classroom exterior doors with several solutions to the problem.
- Provided school district with critical information related to Community Police Officer Coverage and prevented loss of officer to the school district.
- Illustrated problems with positioning of cameras and types of cameras and lack of appropriate Security Design Criteria.
- Pointed out problem of lack of Live Drills and likely consequences in the event of a serious security emergency such as an “Active Shooter” situation.
- Assisted school district in understanding the need for a Security Plan to protect current investment in equipment and to have minimal cost in expanding systems for the future. There was a strong need for an immediate Video Surveillance Plan.
Based on the SVA Reassessment Report, Wivenhoe Management Group were asked to carry out a second consulting assignment covering the development of a Video Surveillance Plan and supporting the Plan with appropriate Security Design Criteria for each camera within the Plan.