With K- 12, I’ve submitted to designers, ‘I know you can’t rework the
room, but let’s put all the shoe and cubby holes over here. Let’s put some
really heavy wood planking behind [the bookshelf].’ It’s not necessarily a
ballistic-rated wall, but adding materials can basically reduce the ability for
the round to make ingress into the room.” This works for white and blackboards along walls as well, Ahrens said.
It’s a well-known fact that design technologies have been advancing
quickly and that goes for school safety products as well, which can often
be installed without students even realizing they’re there. “Retrofit situations
may call for applied window films or improved glazing,” McFadden said.
“Interior partitions and some furnishings may also improve the school’s
readiness in emergency situations.”
There are also minor upgrades to doors and hardware that can deter
a school shooter. These additions should be discussed with a security
consultant and/or the door manufacturer.
Of course, there’s technology like video cameras, intercoms, and doors
that can be locked from a secure location. However, these are all devices
that help contain a situation rather than the safety plan in and of themselves.
The subject of designing schools to be safer in case of a mass shooter
is a heavy one—one that is uncomfortable to discuss and even more
uncomfortable to truly prepare for. But it’s important that designers and
school officials seek out ways to create safer environments for children,
educators, and support staff.
McFadden concluded, “It’s very challenging for schools to marshal the
resources for a major upgrade, so we need more creativity in ways to protect
children while also creating a nurturing, inspirational school environment.
There is no Band-Aid product that will create safer spaces. It is true that
designers and schools do not have the ability to assess the security
shortcomings and it is, therefore, imperative to get a security consultant
involved. Many upgrades are not cost-prohibitive but simply need to be
discussed and coordinated.”
Putting yourself into a shooter’s shoes can help
determine where slight tweaks and details, like
a handrail, can be installed without students
realizing it’s a safety mechanism.
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