Planning security for special events at schools can seem daunting. However, a balanced approach to a security program can help the event come off smoothly. All forms of security planning involve three aspects:
• Natural. Using basic crime prevention through environmental design techniques.
• Organization. Training and preparing the security staff and instructing the participants.
• Mechanical. Using security equipment to assist the security program.
When schools plan security programs using only one of these aspects, the result is that the school does not get the best bang for its security buck, and the event may encounter problems. But a serious attempt at addressing all three can prove successful.
In looking at the natural aspect of security, one basic premise is to reduce isolation and distance. The participants in an event should not feel as if they are alone in an isolated, unsafe place. This feeling of isolation often comes from participants who must walk alone to parking areas, to mass-transit pickup points or restrooms. After hours, this feeling of isolation can be amplified if an individual is walking in a poorly lighted area. People often lose confidence when they have to walk alone in a dark area and cannot see potential danger at a distance.
This planning is done by having a good estimate of how many participants you are expecting at the event, as well as taking into consideration how these participants are going to get to and from your event. Using previous event head counts often is a good basis for making these estimates.
To reduce isolation and distance, make sure that you provide adequate parking for your event so that the participants do not end up parking in non-patrolled areas. Also, make sure that you have sufficient restroom facilities at the event, so that participants don’t have to wander into a remote area of the school. Confirm that all the possible illumination is available after hours in parking areas, paths to mass-transit pickup locations and restrooms. Also, look for areas where someone might be able to hide along paths leading to and from the event.
Work with the school engineering/maintenance department to determine what time outdoor lights will be extinguished. Most outdoor systems are on automatic timers—nothing can be more disconcerting than to have your event end at 10:30 p.m. and find that all the outdoor lights automatically shut off at 10 p.m. Make sure the lights will stay on long after the event has ended so that not only participants, but also event organizers, can return to their vehicles or to mass-transit pickup points in the best illumination possible.
Other aspects of natural security include making an area where unsafe activity occurs less usable for that activity through natural surveillance or other techniques. Where is the normal "smoking area" or "hangout" area around your school event? Are there ways to make these areas less usable for unsafe activities? Could that be done with better illumination or the use of a security patrol presence?
For instance, one school had a problem with unauthorized individuals using a large lawn area behind a facility where there were infrequent patrols and poor natural surveillance. The school solved the problem by arranging for the lawn to be watered regularly with a sprinkler system for brief periods after hours. The wet lawn was uncomfortable, and people tended to move on when the sprinklers came on.