Don Shomette

People are the Prize

Review & Discussion (What Do You See Wednesday? 19 March 2014)

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Let’s review and discuss the picture from What Do You See Wednesday? (19 March 2014)

Here’s the background:

Today’s picture is from another high school with severe security concerns. Every student that enters the school must walk through one of the two metal detectors and then have their backpack run through the X-ray machine. When you comment on this picture, do so as if you are a security officer and you are working this spot during student arrival.  What do you see from the eyes of the security officer?

Here’s the picture:

Here are my thoughts:

We talk a lot about the safety of the students and the staff members, but today I want to talk about the safety of our security personnel. The current setup is unsafe for the security officers. They have no space and distance between them and a potential threat and therefore no time to react first. Remember, this school feels the risk is high enough to have every student pass through a metal detector and to have their book bags x-rayed. That alone, should have the security officers take additional precautions.

What do I mean?

Increase The Space:
While it is good that only one door is being used, the officers have given themselves no time to react first. Imagine you’re a security officer and you’re standing there watching students stream in and suddenly the alarm goes off. How long have you been able to observe the student who set off the alarm? Maybe five seconds at the most? That is not long enough. We want to increase the time we are able to observe and assess those before they enter our area. The best way to do that is to…

Increase The Distance:
If I couldn’t move the metal detectors backwards and gain distance that way, I’d post an officer in the hall but place him in a spot where he was still visible from the doorway (typically there are at least three security officers manning an area like this and if I was an officer standing inside, I’d want to be able to see the officer outside in the hall).

Next, I’d create a lane in the hall and make all the students form in a line out there, before they get near the metal detector. The officer in the hall would have the job of observing and assessing. Does anyone look nervous? Anyone carrying something bulky? Anyone showing other signs of potential danger?

The officer in the hall would also have the job of spacing out the students. That is, not letting them bunch up around the metal detector but instead ensuring that they enter one at a time—nice and slow and at our pace. If the alarm goes off we want as few students in the immediate area as possible and we want a clear path to immediately address the situation.

We see it again and again that we can solve or lessen so many problems just by tweaking the environment to make it work for us. In everything we do, we want to increase the space and distance between ourselves and a potential threat. It is always in our benefit to be the one to act first.

When we do, we stand a better chance of influencing the outcome.


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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