Solve Violence with Common Sense Security
In the wake of the horrific and violent incidents in Florida as well as the uptick in threats of violence following, like many of you, we are also pondering questions of “What can be done?” How about some common sense security?
We live in a world of conflicting demands and increasing uncertainty. On the one hand we want freedom and anonymity, and on the other, we want protection from criminals intent to do harm. The debates rage about who is to blame and who should protect us.
Unfortunately, the debates, the anger, the finger pointing, the outcry and even demands for change are getting us nowhere. Are there ways to actually make us more safe? Is there a practical approach? What if we use more common sense in security?
Complex Problems, Emotional Demands
Fixing is easy when problems are simple. Yet, these problems are not simple, and real solutions require careful thinking. Also, because the problems are complicated, the solutions must be multifaceted — but not necessary complex. We know from history that single sided answers are usually wrong.
I am amused at the stupidity of emotional demands for a “new law” to solve “the problem”. As if criminals cared about law. Instead, we must think rationally, and act with reason. Irrationality brings fear and increases anxiety. Law changes may be part of the solution, but demand for those first without a more complete plan will just leave us empty.
It’s time to stop, and use our heads.
Full Disclosure: This is The Engineer’s Perspective, and we tend to think analytically in finding solutions. If you want emotion, read the sensationalized news our society continues to demand and promote. To me, the methods of reporting news are part of the problem.
Common Sense Security
Let’s talk about schools, and specifically about extreme violence as in Florida, Virginia, etc.. I’ve heard a bunch of ideas from arming teachers, to locking up anyone that fits a profile, to high-tech surveillance, to banning all guns. I want to know: Why so extreme?
Too many times we think of absolutes. Absolute safety. Absolutely no way to penetrate. Absolutely no violence. The world does not operate in absolutes. I believe we can improve safety, drastically, with common sense security.
Yes, I know, common sense is not so common, but go with me on this. There are several books that also address this topic with much more detail and even better ideas.
Security by Obscurity
The best security is obscurity. In the context of cyber security, if something is not there, it’s impossible to hack. If a computer is OFF, or the network is disconnected, it’s pretty hard to compromise. Turning it OFF when not in immediate use is cheap, and effective.
Obviously, we can’t turn OFF schools, nor can we unplug them, but there are a bunch of pretty simple, cheap things we can do for safety. Most are low tech and common in other venues. None are fool-proof, but all together, we can hinder access and make it easier to flag folks that don’t belong.
Security by Inconvenience
There are dozens of ideas surrounding this concept. The main idea with inconveniences is that anyone side-stepping these inconveniences or thwarting them will raise a red flag. Sometimes giving up a little can benefit a lot. Here are a few:
- Add inconvenient entry constraints. For instance, add a turnstile (like in many train stations) which require each entrant to insert and validate an ID.
- Create single file entry row(s).
- Of course, metal detectors can be used, but they can hide in properly designed doorways instead of looking obvious and threatening.
- Put automated, simple one stick gates at vehicle entrances. It makes people stop, and use an ID or a call button to the office for entry.
- In addition to gates, include fencing around school property, but with breaks for people to walk through. The breaks make it easy for people coming and going, yet with cameras and sensors, warnings can notify the office when someone comes at times when students are inside. Cameras also allow inspection of a person before entering the building.
- Add doors that lock with the push of a remote button. (For instance, a fingerprint reading fob carried by staff could lock all doors in a given circumference.)
There are many more ideas, and automation in monitoring can reduce the impact.
Security in Awareness
Of course we want to shield our children from the worries of threats, but unfortunately, this is our current world. Kids have the eyes that often see things first. Some age appropriate discussion about threats and how kids should report things out of the ordinary can help officials intervene. For teens especially, it’s noticing inappropriate social media or other actions.
For school staff, it’s watching and listening. It’s also about an environment where kids can share, then assessing the validity of what kids (and adults) report. In almost every case of extreme violence, there are warning signs.
Security through Preparation
Preparation comes in various stages. Physical preparation like the inconveniences noted above are one way. Training for staff and officials is another. Teaching basics to our children is yet another. Planning for how to handle credible and fake reports is also important.
In the news we hear calls for teachers to be trained and armed. While it has some merit, it’s not without some serious potential repercussions. I personally like the idea of intervening long before the point where bullets are flying.
Truly, preparation must include both proactive and reactive conditions.
Security by Observation
As a combination of Awareness and Preparation, observing activities both in and beyond the school is essential. Most importantly, give proper training for staff to know what they are looking for and how to watch.
Disclaimer: I am not in the circles for training. I understand most teachers have some training, but I also understand in-depth training is rare, which is a shame. School staff are there everyday, and they, along with the students, are the most valuable resource for noticing warning signs.
Security by Intervention
The summary of things above boil down to the question of “What do we do when we identify a person that COULD potentially do such a terrible deed?” The shooter in Florida was identified as trouble long before his horrific act. We look back and say “We should have done something.” Yet, law currently requires that someone actually commit a crime before we intervene. They must have a record before a background check can flag them.
This Is Where Our National Conversation Should Focus . . .
How And When To Intervene.
I personally believe our laws should give judges more authority with things like search warrants to act on credible suspicions. It’s a fine line between rights of privacy and public safety, but I think with proper checks and balances, we can move that line toward safety without infringing very much on privacy. How to do that is a conversation that must include lawmakers, the public and especially professionals in understanding criminal actions.
I’m absolutely positive we won’t get there if we rely only on politicians to argue as normal. We must seek professionals and work together in finding practical, common sense security solutions. We must act locally (at each school), as well as regionally and nationally. As a society, we must be willing to give a little — on every side.
Keep thinking on common sense security. A real solution is a multi-pronged approach, and it will take all of us to make it work.