In April 2021, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released a report about its work at George Mason University, a public research university near Fairfax City, VA.
According to the report, in August 2020 the DHS worked with about 1,000 university students, staff, and professors at the school, along with outside educational professionals, to simulate various types of school shooter incidents. The buildings selected on the campus for the two-week simulation were those that best mirrored a typical suburban public school.
During the study, the release goes on to say, “participants ran through scenarios in which there were different conditions, such as the absence or presence of school resource (security) officers or manually versus automatically locked classroom doors.” Further, the report indicated that realism and participant involvement were so strong that some participants were showing signs of “psychological distress.”
The researchers concluded after the two-week project that having trained security professionals in a school during an active shooter event can help prevent injuries and fatalities. It also suggested that having classroom doors that automatically lock when closed could help protect students and staff and further minimize injuries and deaths.
While this is useful information, it is primarily focused on what to do during an actual shooting event. Although we cannot prevent all campus shootings—if someone wants to commit such a crime, they will likely find a way to do it—what we can do is look for ways to minimize the possibility of these shootings occurring in the first place. In most cases, this is accomplished by consulting with security experts who will suggest conducting what is called a “risk assessment.” The risk assessment process looks for potential vulnerabilities in facilities and then suggests ways to eliminate these weaknesses and potential hazards.
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