Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Board Meeting Security

Here is the first link that I found regarding the shooting at the school board meeting in Florida tonight -
Board meeting security is notoriously non-existent. What measures do you have in place?

Monday, November 29, 2010

Disaster Planning

Here is a link to an article I had published in this month's issue of School Planning & Mangement magazine.

This is a synopsis of the article:
"Because we are so accustomed to hearing people engage in the art of exaggeration, we often don't worry when someone relates a minor disappointment and refers to it as a "complete and total disaster." Where school disaster planning and preparedness is concerned, however, we cannot afford to take the topic lightly. Unfortunately, many school districts do just that. Let's discuss some of the reasons why this may occur, propose some remedies and provide some resources."

I hope the article will be of assistance to you. As always, your comments are welcome.


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Facebook Security Issues

"More Questions for Facebook"
Wall Street Journal (10/18/10) Fowler, Geoffrey A.

U.S. Reps. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) and Joe Barton (R-Texas) have sent a letter to Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg asking him to provide information about the latest security breach at the social networking site. The breach consisted of third-party applications gathering and transmitting personally identifiable information about Facebook users and their friends--including identification numbers, which can be used to look up a user's real name and find other information users have made public--to advertising and Internet tracking companies. The letter asks Zuckerberg to disclose how many users had been affected by the breach, when Facebook became aware of the problem, and what steps the social networking site plans to take to deal with the privacy issue. A Facebook spokesman said that the company wants to work with Markey and Barton in order to address any confusion surrounding the incident, but said that passing a user ID to an application may not constitute a "breach." Meanwhile, Facebook executive Mike Vernal acknowledged that user IDs were passed on to advertising and Internet companies inadvertently in violation of the company's policies. He added that while knowing a user's ID does not allow anyone to access a user's private information, Facebook is taking steps to ensure that applications comply with its privacy policy and to prevent even the inadvertent passing of user IDs to third parties.

Friday, October 15, 2010

San Diego, CA -
Children in Carlsbad ran for their lives last Friday after a gunman — whom a witness described as deranged — scaled a fence and opened fire. The heroic actions of a neighbor and a pair of construction workers finally put an end to the terrifying ordeal. The shooter reportedly leapt a fence to gain access to the campus at about 12:10 p.m. Police later confirmed that two children, who had been playing outside at recess at Kelly Elementary School, were “shot in the extremities” and had “non-life-threatening wounds.”
Lesson: Now is the time to improve your exterior activity monitoring practices! Ensure that an adequate number of staff are positioned along the perimeter of the activity. In addition to being equipped with two-way radios and First Aid supplies, staff should be clearly marked with reflective safety vests or arm bands.
What other practices have you implemented?

Saturday, October 9, 2010

18,000 Texts?!?


A recent Pew Internet and American Life Project study found that the typical teenager sends 50 text messages a day! That translates into 18,000 per year! In fact, texting is the NUMBER ONE form of communication for those between the ages of 12 and 17. BTW - the study also found that girls send three times more texts than guys. Hmmm...


Monday, September 20, 2010

Bomb Threat

Here is an excerpt from a Chicago Tribune article last week:

"We can think of few things more unsettling than learning that a headless body — alongside an unexploded pipe bomb — has been discovered near your child's middle school.

That's what parents in Evanston faced Tuesday (09/14), after a man walking his dog made the grisly find at a park adjacent to Nichols Middle School. Parents were especially upset that they heard about it only when they arrived to drop off their kids for school — or when the school bus returned the youngsters to the bus stop with the news that classes were canceled. The school remained closed the next day, and questions from parents were flying much faster than answers from school officials or police.

We share parents' alarm, their concerns for their children's safety and yes, their curiosity. But their dissatisfaction at the pace of information strikes us as a sign of the times. Thanks to the cell phone and the BlackBerry, to e-mail alerts and text messaging and continuously updated Internet news sites, we've come to expect nearly instant communication.

The timeline of events is not so damning. Though the explosion was reported at 3:53 a.m., police who searched the area couldn't find anything to explain it. They left. It wasn't until around 5:15 a.m. that the dog walker found the body; by the time he got home and notified police, it was 5:48 a.m.

The body was found near the city tennis courts and play lot, at the south end of the block; the school is at the north end. It's fair to assume the responding officers had their hands full. The area was taped off, but it was more than an hour — 7:15 a.m. — before police sat down with school officials. The call to close the school was made around 7:30 a.m., a notice was placed on the district Web site by 8 a.m. and an e-mail blast was sent to parents 10 minutes later.

No, that wasn't enough notice to prevent many people from showing up for an 8:30 a.m. start. But it doesn't sound like anyone was being lackadaisical or indecisive. And those who showed up for school weren't allowed anywhere near the crime scene. They may have been inconvenienced, but they weren't endangered.

A very few years ago, the district's ability to notify parents of the emergency would have been far more limited — the local radio station, a rudimentary phone tree. If you rewind the years (or months) to mark your own technological milestones, you may be surprised to realize how recently you learned about texting or how little time has passed since the entire family relied on a single land-line phone. This drama would have played out very differently even five years ago. Then, as now, nobody would have gotten hurt. Nobody would have complained that the e-mail came too late, either.

Evanston school officials have had blessedly little experience with headless bodies on the playground. Short of staffing a 24-hour crisis line, we're not sure they could get the word out much faster, though this week's lessons — and tomorrow's technology — might change that. Let's hope we never find out."

Congratulations, José M. Osorio (author of the aricle). I consider this to be responsible journalism.

What are your thoughts?

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Security Practices for Volunteers

Chicago, IL - According to a suburban police report from this past weekend, a female volunteer at a local catholic school/church was robbed and assualted as she prepared to sell fundraiser gift cards.
The offender approached the victim, who was alone at the time, and demanded money while displaying a black semi-automatic handgun. The victim complied by retrieving $4.00 from her purse. The offender became irate and struck the victim underneath her right eye with a closed fist. He then demanded and stole the "manna" fundraiser gift cards (for grocery stores and gas stations) from the victim.

What kind of thoughts does this story bring to mind? How could this incident have been avoided? What staffing and cash handling practices do you have in place to guard against this kind of situation?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Chicago, IL - According to a recent Chicago Sun-Times article, the families of nine elementary school girls who were molested by a band teacher in a suburban school district have been awarded $3.5 million.
The band teacher pleaded guilty four years ago to kidnapping and sexually abusing more than 20 girls. The lawsuit claimed that one of the school's principals was aware of the alleged activities, did not report the abuse, and hid evidence from the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services.
Local police reportedly found letters from school officials during a search of the band teacher's residence warning him to stop inappropriately touching students.

This story may not be so much about the perpetrator as it is about school practices for handling allegations. I think school communities would rather know about potentially serious issues and how they are being addressed than find out about them after "damage control" efforts fail.

What kind of thoughts does this story bring to mind? How could this lawsuit have been avoided? What practices do you have in place to guard against this kind of situation?

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Under the heading of "Sure to Go Viral" ------------------

We are selling Classroom Emergency Backpacks - http://www.retasecurity.com/pages.asp?pageid=94202 - and considering ways that we can give away backpacks to economically challenged schools, churches, etc. when those that have means make purchases of certain quantities. Any ideas that you might have in that endeavor would definitely be welcome.

Thanks in advance!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Check out this article I co-authored recently on the importance of critical communications:


Your thoughts?

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Financial Issues

According to a recent Los Angeles Times article, 14 school districts in the state of California have been financially classified as "in especially dire condition." For many of these districts, teacher lay-offs are just the tip of the iceberg. "Schools on this list are now forced to make terrible decisions to cut programs and services that students need or face bankruptcy," said state Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell.

Unfortunately, school security budgets in California, and across the nation, are also being negatively impacted. At RETA Security, however, we recommend numerous low-cost/no-cost ways to provide a safer learning environment. For example:
  • Better Visitor Management Procedures
  • Committing to a "Closed Campus" Practice (or "Close Campus" in Certain Cases)
  • Improving/Optimizing Communication Systems
  • Undertaking a Collaborative Approach (i.e. Security Committee)

Obviously, some of these recommendations require explanation. Please contact us at info@retasecurity.com for more detail. Please post your ideas, as well.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

School Violence Statistics

I recently came across the following statement on governmentvideo.com:

"In the past 10 years, 284 people have been killed in U.S. school-associated violent deaths. Of those, 130 were shot; others were stabbed, beaten to death or committed suicide."

Now, who can identify the number of students that have been killed in U.S. school-associated fires over the last 10 years? How 'bout the last 25 years? How 'bout the last 50 years?
The answer to all of those questions is ZERO! The reason that there have been no fire-related fatalities can only be attributed to the fact that schools must comply with stringent safety codes and standards. Mandates have indeed paid off!

On the other side of the coin, we have yet to benefit from codes and standards that could govern security practices such as visitor management, access control, communications, door hardware, etc.

How much more violence is it going to take until security codes and standards are also in place? While we may not be able to answer that question with certainty, it's high time that schools pursue a proactive approach to protecting students, staff, and visitors!

Your thoughts?

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

PORTLAND, OR - Visitor management practices are "center stage" in the Portland Public Schools after a Skyline Elementary School student disappeared last Friday during the school's science fair.

KATU.com reports that visitors are now required to sign-in upon entering the school. In addition, school officials are looking into security procedures for releasing students as they leave school.

7-year-old Kyron Horman disappeared last Friday morning. He was last seen walking around with his stepmother to view science fair projects around 8:45 a.m., according to CBS News.

Kyron Horman and his step-mother, Terri Moulton Horman, arrived at Skyline Elementary School around 8 a.m. Friday and attended a science fair at the school. Around 8:45 a.m. Terri said goodbye to Kyron and watched the second-grader walk down the hallway toward his classroom. Police say that the last time the boy was seen was about 9 a.m. At 3:45 p.m., when the school bus arrived at Kyron's stop without him on board, his step-mom called the school. She was told he was marked "absent" by his teacher. She called 9-1-1 just before 4 p.m. and the search effort was launched. Portland schools then sent an automated message to parents in the school district that the boy was missing. Local police walked the school grounds with K-9 tracking teams, searched every room and closet inside the school, and even checked the roof.

How effective are your visitor management practices? How do they change during special events? Please post your thoughts.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

CARMEL, IN - According to recent news reports, the family of a 14-year-old Carmel High School student, who alleges being abused by other student athletes, is planning to sue the Carmel Clay School District for $2.2 million. The investigation into the alleged abuse, which was said to have occurred on a school bus and in a locker room, has been going on for months. The four student athletes who have been accused of the abuse were initally arrested and released on bond. They were also suspended from school.

What safety issues and/or questions does a story like this bring to your mind? What measures have you put in place to address the monitoring of difficult areas such as buses and locker rooms?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

School Security Attacks - China

CHINA, 05/12 - Eight people were killed and 20 others were injured in a knife attack at a kindergarten in northern China. The attack began at 8 a.m. when a 48-year-old man simply walked into the private school.
At least 17 people have been killed and dozens injured in a series of alleged "copycat" attacks, which began in March. In each case, a middle-aged man acting alone attacked children with knives or tools.
Some speculate that these attacks are the result of lack of physical security measures, some feel they are the result of frustration with corrupt government officials, and others blame the lack of treatment for people suffering from mental illnesses.
What are your thoughts?

Monday, May 3, 2010

Student Involvement in School Security

Here is an exerpt from David Timm's article that addresses how to involve students in the school security program. It appeared in this month's issue of School Planning and Management magazine.

"In security, risk minimization is everything. You can never completely eliminate the possibility of a school shooting or other types of breakdowns in security, but you can make the system as secure as possible by using your resources efficiently and using them cohesively, or as a unit. The most important resource administrators miss when factoring in all of their options to make school security more effective is the student body."

What are your thoughts?

Friday, April 30, 2010

KARE-TV School Security News Story

Here is an exerpt from a KARE-TV (Minneapolis, MN) School Security news story I was involved in recently:

"HASTINGS, Minn. -- When a student with a handgun broke into three classrooms at the Hastings Middle School the day after Easter this year, not everyone made the connection to the school shootings at Red Lake High School five years earlier. Missy Dodds could think of nothing else. "I was angry," said the former Red Lake teacher, who witnessed the murders of a co-worker and five of her students. "I just couldn't believe it would happen again like that." Dodds yelled to her husband to come to the television when she heard the reports from Hastings while at her home in Bemidji. A security failure at her school had now become a failure at another. She wondered when someone would come to the same conclusion she'd reached years ago: a lockdown does no good when an armed intruder can simply break a window at the classroom door.
At one time nearly all interior school windows were made of plate glass. It was cheap, but when shattered, broke into shards that could cut students. Eventually states, including Minnesota, altered their building codes for new schools to require tempered in student traffic areas. Smash it, and tempered glass breaks into tiny blunt pieces that won't cut anyone - much better for school safety, but still lacking for security.

"My bottom line is this, I don't like tempered glass," said Paul Timm, a school security consultant with RETA Security in Lemont, Illinois. "I don't like tempered glass because if you hit it hard enough it's going to be able to break and then I'm going to be in."

Instead, Timm believes impact resistant laminated glass -- similar to the glass used in car windshields -- should be required by building codes for use in and near classroom doors. Laminated glass will still crack when struck hard with a baseball bat or crowbar, but unlike plate or tempered glass, laminated glass will maintain its integrity through multiple blows.

Another option for existing windows is impact resistant film applied on the outside of glass. Like laminated glass, the film, made by 3M among other companies, keeps windows in one piece even when the glass underneath shatters. Hastings school officials needed no convincing after their brush with tragedy at the middle school. Last Friday they began the replacement of plate glass in 35 classroom doors with laminated glass. Total cost of the project: $2100, or roughly $60 per door. That price was virtually the same as replacing the windows with tempered glass, according to Jim Johnson, the owner of Midwest Glass, the company doing the work at Hastings. If the same set of circumstance were to reoccur in Hastings, Johnson expressed confidence, "he wouldn't be able to punch through." In fact Hastings got a firsthand look at what happens with more impact resistant glass. In addition to the three classroom he broke into, the armed student tried to gain entry into two classroom with wire mesh in the glass. In both cases, the glass cracked but stayed in place because of the wire. The student moved on. Wire mesh is no longer recommended by safety officials because students can suffer serious cuts during accidental breaks. None of this means laminated glass is bullet proof. It does, however, tend to remain in its frame as bullets pass though, again denying access to an intruder.

Timm said Minnesota, of all places, should be taking a lead on impact resistant glass. "For it to happen once in this state is too much. for it to happen twice I start to say, when are we going to take action?"

But Timm's call for code changes is a recommendation not shared by the Minnesota School Safety Center, a joint project of the state departments of public safety and education. For her part, Missy Dodds can't figure out why the state would allow any new school to be built with plate or tempered glass in the doors. "My classroom was brand new. First year in use. Brand new building." Having witnessed the deaths of a co-worker, five of her students and the shooter by his own gun, Dodds remains in therapy."

What are your thoughts?

Thursday, April 1, 2010

"Schooled in Preparedness"

RETA Security's Randy Braverman is frequently quoted in Security Management magazine's April issue in an article entitled, "Schooled in Preparedness" by Ann Longmore-Etheridge. The article was summarized as follows: "a federal grant allowed the East Aurora (Illinois) School District to create and implement a top-notch all-hazards emergency management plan."

So, in this feature article, Longmore-Etheridge gives an "A-Z" description of how East Aurora won the grant, RETA Security's involvement, Randy Braverman's facilitation efforts, and numerous specific outcomes that have been achieved as a result.

Here's a sample:

"Timm also conducted vulnerability assessment training for 44 district administrators and building and grounds personnel. 'He showed them how to do a physical site assessment at their buildings so that they could do it themselves as well as go back and train others,' states Braverman."

Take a look at the article in print form and post your thoughts!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Article on Convergence

Check out this "hot off the presses" article in School Planning & Management magazine. I am quoted a couple of times. The topic in this latest edition has to to with "convergence." If you are not sure what convergence (coming together of physical and IT security) is all about, read on. Here's the actual link if you need to copy and paste - http://www.peterli.com/spm/resources/articles/archive.php?article_id=2517. Share your thoughts...

Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Impact of Screens on Security

A recently released study by the Kaiser Family Foundation entitled, "Generation M2: Media in the Lives of 8-18-Year-Olds," found that youths ages 8 to 18 spend an average of 7 hours and 38 minutes a day using entertainment media! In other words, today's students spend the majority of their waking hours in front of some kind of screen (i.e. computers, smart phones, gaming systems). That screen time is up from 6 hours and 21 minutes in 2004. Even more amazing - the study did not include texting!

What impact is this making on security? How does it affect your ability to provide a safe environment? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Website Upgrade

The RETA Security website upgrade is nearly complete - www.retasecurity.com. Please give us feedback ASAP!