Don Shomette

People are the Prize

What Do You See Wednesday (Review & Discussion) 12 Feb 2014

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Let’s review and discuss the last, “What Do You See Wednesday from 12 Feb 2014.

First, here’s the picture:

Outside Picture

Here is what others had to say:

Diana Back: Hm….the overhang and brick pillars could be hiding spots for “ambushes” and I also don’t like the fact that there are no windows to see in or out.

Corporal Rob Sarnoski: There’s at least three things that could be improved. The inoperative lights are probably the most obvious issue. A note to mx should get that oversight fixed. Second, the wooden pallets partially obstruct the ramp. That will be important if there is an emergency in which people have to evacuate the building. Finally, the entry into the building is not clearly numbered for first responders. If the entry is not numbered on the outside, it’s probably not numbered on the inside either.

Thanks, Diana and Rob for the comments.  You’re observations are right on and I agree with you completely.  I just have a couple of other points to add.

1. The lights are still on and it’s daytime. 
This concerns me.  It could just be that the timer is turned off or it could be something bigger.  Taking in everything that is happening in the picture (or not happening) I think it’s the latter.  If I was doing a vulnerability assessment on this school I would initially be thinking that policies and procedures are not being obeyed by the staff or confirmed as being completed by the leadership.  I would look for more clues (observable facts) so I could get an accurate and fair picture, but what I’m seeing worries me that we may have a leadership problem.  I may be wrong, but this is why ownership is so important.  Ownership or a lack of it sends a clear message that either the person cares or they don’t care.

All things being relative, what message do you get from this picture?  What message do you think this is sending to would be offenders?  Is this an easy target or hard target?

2. The worn spot of grass near the door is more than just water runoff. 
Someone is using this space as a gathering spot and they’ve killed the grass.  Most likely this is the custodial crews using it late night to smoke a cigarette and/or to take a break.  Look for every indicator that gives you a better idea about the behavior of the people using the space.  The worn grass isn’t a big thing but it helps us to get to know the people and that’s very important.  The more we know, the better informed our recommendations will be and therefore the more we can help!

3. Pallets used as ladders.
Pallets have been used in the past to gain access to the second story as well as the roof by creating a makeshift ladder.  It only takes a second to put them in place and then you just run up it (if you’re brave or dumb enough). In a normal situation, it would be less of a concern but this is a high risk area with lots of unwanted behaviors in the past.  The little things have to be managed and addressed immediately because they can turn into bigger things very quickly.

4. The overhang is new. 
You can tell because of the light in the upper right.  No one would waste their time putting a light there if it was just going to be blocked by the overhang.  The overhang must have been added later, after the light.  I just want to remind everyone not to build on or to make any renovations until someone has checked the modifications to make sure that they will not make the space less safe.  This overhang may have been needed but the design made it less safe.  This could have been avoided.

5. Delayed access.
From a distance the window screens look like normal wire, but they are in fact a high security metal mesh.  This is good exterior security but it will delay officers attempting to force entry since the only way to open these types of windows is with a special key or from the inside.  You cannot cut your way into this.  If I was still an SRO I would drive around to all of my buildings and ask myself—is there anything that would delay or prevent me or another officer from gaining access in less than one minute?  If so, I’d carry the counter measures in my car and suggest that several be distributed among the road officers.  I’d make sure to include a couple of bolt cutters (Cho locked doors at VA Tech with chains) and several battering rams (Roberts barricaded the windows at the Amish school).  We’re down to minutes matter and we have to shave every second we can from our response.

Author: Don Shomette

Don Shomette is a trainer, speaker, consultant, and owner of People are the Prize, a violence prevention company that helps people to prevent and survive a school attack. He has spent a lifetime working with police officers and principals and is consistently evaluated by those who attend his trainings as one of the best instructors ever. Don challenges, entertains, and helps school personnel to think of preventing violence in a new and positive way.

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