As another school shooting occurs, I struggle with what to write.  Today is Wednesday, the day that I typically post a photo that leaves me wordless – usually a code violation or a particularly creative modification.  I can’t post a Wordless Wednesday photo and ignore yesterday’s school shooting at Marshall County High School, but what’s left to say?

By now you’ve all heard the news about the shooting – two 15-year-old students killed, more than a dozen injuries, another student in custody who will be charged with murder and assault.  Everyone is asking “why?” and “how can we prevent this from happening again?”

I can’t answer those questions.  In the big picture, physical security plays a small role, and will not solve the problem.  But physical security is my area of focus, and I can point out a few things about what reportedly happened yesterday:

  • As with so many school shootings, the shooter was a student.  Although you often hear about concerns regarding “intruders,” students are the most frequent perpetrators of school shootings (refer to the statistics in this article from Campus Safety).  It’s important to consider this when selecting security methods, because if doors can be secured by anyone, they can be secured by a student who intends to commit a crime.
  • During the shooting, many students evacuated and went to safe locations outside of the school.  State officials spoke about the principles of Run-Hide-Fight.  The free egress provided by code-compliant exits allowed the evacuation to occur.  Securing these doors in a manner that deters egress can increase the casualties.  Although in this case the shooter reportedly ran out of ammunition, some students were injured by other students trying to escape.  These injuries could have been compounded if doors were not immediately available for egress.
  • Some students left the common area where the shooting occurred and sheltered in classrooms.  Doors were locked and/or barricaded with furniture.  I checked the websites of the Kentucky State Fire Marshal and the Kentucky Center for School Safety, and did not find any evidence that they allow classroom barricade devices.  Code-compliant classroom security allows doors to be secured quickly, and evacuation to occur if/when needed.
  • In 2013, the Kentucky legislature approved a bill addressing school security, that includes requirements for the front entrance to be controlled electronically or with a greeter, and states: “If a classroom is equipped with hardware that allows the door to be locked from the outside but opened from the inside, the door should remain locked during instruction time.”  This seems to indicate that classroom doors must allow free egress.  The code enforced by the state fire marshal is NFPA 101, which also mandates free egress.

As more information is released in the days to come, perhaps there will be more to learn that can help schools to be prepared.  Feel free to share any thoughts in the reply box.

Graphic: WSMV

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