Today marks the 1-year anniversary of the school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, where 17 students and staff members were killed and 17 more were injured. On January 2, 2019, the MSD Public Safety Commission issued a report of more than 400 pages, which includes a section dedicated to memories of the victims, followed by background statistics on school violence, detailed information about the shooting at MSDHS, as well as recommendations for preparation and incident response.
I won’t comment on the entire document, but that does not diminish the importance of the information. I recommend reading it in more detail, as well as watching the video animation of the shooting. It’s difficult to process what occurred that day, but it is critical for those of us involved in school security to understand how future incidents might be affected by changes we can make today.
A few of the physical security related points from the report:
- Securing and monitoring exterior doors, and compartmentalizing the building with lockable doors that allow free egress, are critical steps for securing schools. At MSDHS, the shooter entered school grounds through an unstaffed gate, entered the building through an unlocked and unstaffed door, and moved freely through all three floors of the building (page marked 7, page 26 of the PDF).
- During the shooting, many classroom doors were locked and prevented access to classrooms. The report states, “It is important to note that Cruz never entered a single classroom in building 12 and only shot those people in his line of site in a classroom or hallway. All gunshots were fired into classrooms through the classroom door or the window within the classroom door.” (page marked 24, page 43 of the PDF)
- When students moved out of sight within classrooms, the shooter passed these occupied rooms and did not attempt to enter (page marked 29, page 48 of the PDF). This validates the need for marked areas (hard corners) out of the line of sight, as well as the ability to quickly obscure vision panels in doors and sidelights. On February 14, 2018, two of the thirty classrooms at MSDHS had marked hard corners; several classrooms had furniture or other obstructions in these areas – including the two rooms with marked hard corners (page marked 44, page 63 of the PDF).
- In several entries of the incident timeline, locks on classrooms and restrooms are discussed (pages marked 30-32, pages 49-51 of the PDF). Some restroom doors were locked because of incidents of students vaping in the restrooms. Classroom doors were equipped with traditional classroom function locksets, which require teachers to open the door and insert a key in the outside lever. Some classroom doors were locked, so when students and teachers escaped and the doors were closed, teachers needed to use their keys to get back into the rooms. The existing locks are described and pictured in the report (page marked 43, page 62 of the PDF). These locks have since been changed to storeroom function locks.
- There are some possibilities to explore based on the performance of building materials during the shooting. The report notes, “Some bullets traveled through the penetrable parts of the structure. Had Cruz intentionally shot through these materials, the amount of casualties could have been greater. The use of non-impenetrable construction materials is safety vulnerability.” In addition, the report states, “The storm-resistant glass on the third-floor teacher’s lounge mitigated the number of people shot because the rounds fragmented and prevented Cruz from effecting his sniper position.” (page marked 47, page 66 of the PDF)
- The guidelines from the Partner Alliance for Safer Schools (PASS) are referenced in Section 3.1 – Recommendations: “The OSS should also conduct a complete review of target-hardening practices currently or planning to be utilized, recommendations highlighted in other state’s school safety reports, and those developed by other organizations such as the Partner Alliance for Safer Schools.” (page marked 82, page 101 of the PDF)
- The report directs all Florida school districts to implement certain harm-mitigation strategies immediately, including locked or staffed campus gates, locked or staffed building doors and classroom doors, the ability for teachers to lock doors from within the classrooms and to carry keys at all times, hard corners in classrooms, and the means to quickly cover classroom door vision panels (pages marked 82-83, pages 101-102 of the PDF).
- Law enforcement response is described in detail, including their difficulties accessing locked rooms (pages marked 140-142, pages 159-161 of the PDF). This demonstrates the need for the distribution of keys or credentials as part of the emergency response. Classroom barricade devices which hinder authorized access from the outside can further delay law enforcement response as well as deterring egress.
- Appendix B includes recommendations including several related to electrified and mechanical locks, secure entry vestibules, door monitoring, size of classroom door vision panels and proximity to locking hardware, the ability to obscure vision panels and the potential use of ballistic-resistant glazing film (pages 353-358 of the PDF).