Q&A: School Safety and Security Design
Answering your questions related to school safety and security
In our work, clients often want to know: what are the latest trends? what are my peers doing? So we occasionally distill our thoughts on a specific topic into a Q&A format.
What types of scenarios should schools prepare for?
Critical scenarios are currently top-of-mind for schools and communities across the United States, and school design and safety protocol should certainly plan for those unfortunate possibilities. But it’s also important to plan for the circumstances that more commonly affect students: bullying, harassment, and parent/child custody issues.
Measures such as strategic placement of transparency and the elimination of dark corners can deter bullying and harassment scenarios. Wide open spaces can foster a sense of community and promote better behavior by providing subtle cues that one’s actions are visible to others. Restricting access to a single secure entrance can alleviate parent/child custody issues, and also disrupt the potential for external threats.
Implementing preventative measures that prioritize the social and emotional health of students may be the most effective strategy for schools to improve their safety and security. Schools should prioritize spaces where students feel supported, with access to counseling resources and collaborative spaces. Design that fosters positive relationships and trust between staff and students can counter the development of dangerous situations or behaviors.
How can building design enhance school safety protocol?
Building design affects user experience— and aligning the design process with existing school safety protocol enhances and reinforces the security solutions that administrators have in place.
The design process is also an opportunity to develop new safety and security protocol. Frequently, schools have adapted their procedures to their existing spaces and infrastructure, which are often outdated, and were not necessarily designed with current best practices in mind. Implementing a sound safety protocol requires highly technical coordination of systems like video surveillance and building access controls. Everyday school safety depends on aligning these systems with the built environment.
How can a school begin implementing safety and security improvements?
Schools can increase safety and security through a process of incremental improvements. GMB works with schools to assess their current facilities and prioritize improvements based on available funding.
The initial upgrades we recommend are adding or improving a secure main entrance and increasing sight lines from the main office to the school’s exterior and main hallways. The next priority is separating the building into smaller areas to create layered zones of security, which helps establish separation between student-occupied spaces and public spaces. Finally, it is important to consider ways to enhance security at the individual classroom level through methods such as door hardware improvements, spaces for sheltering in place, and egress strategies.
For a comprehensive, systematic upgrade of safety features, schools should consider a plan to secure adequate funding through grants or voter-approved funding mechanisms.
Want to learn more?Reach out to one of our design professionals
Jeff Hoag leads our K-12 practice at GMB, partnering with school districts across all phases of planning and design. He is passionate about designing spaces that empower teachers and equip students to learn.
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