Every facet of design, including security, relies on the proven fundamentals of educational facility planning. The same process that administrators, planners and designers use to create effective learning environments also can be used to create safe, secure school facilities. This process begins by engaging all stakeholders to discuss what is important for their community. An architect can serve as a facilitator and provide knowledge gained from experiences with other schools. This process establishes a level of awareness and expectations that serves as the basis for an effective design.
Many schools are ill-equipped to address today’s security concerns. Many administrators recall when security concerns consisted of the construction bomb shelters during the Cold War. Over the years, schools have installed fences, window grates, various locking devices and security cameras to deter trouble and show a security presence. But the potential threats schools face today come from many new and unfamiliar sources.
Influences on security planning
Local communities are demanding leadership and accountability from administrators to "keep our kids safe." This outcry from the community provides the authority necessary to carry out effective and sustainable change. The planning process should begin by involving all stakeholders and posing two fundamental questions:
• What are we securing against?
• What levels of security do we need—and are we willing—to provide?
The perceptions shared by each planning participant provide useful insights regarding the type of threats perceived and the acceptable level of deterrence.
The planning process has identified a number of internal and external influences:
• Social influences, including drug abuse, violent crime and unemployment.
• Economic influences, including reduced governmental funding, restrictive operating budgets, higher construction costs and lack of voter support for taxes.
• Maintaining effective learning environments, including friendly and accessible spaces, and scheduling of extended-day activities and community-use functions.
• Building codes, including occupant life-safety and accessibility standards.
• User perceptions, including the level of safety students and faculty feel.
Community awareness and expectations are two of the initial influences in the security planning dialogue. But, often what makes districts act—or react—is a specific incident that has gained public attention. As a result, community groups are no longer saying, "It can’t happen in our community."
Many schools are taking a leadership role in establishing a dialogue with their community regarding safety and security. This dialogue has created a sense of empowerment and has led to actions that the community supports fully. The planning process is creating sustainable change in the planning and design of school facilities.