Sunday, December 16, 2012


Protecting us from crazies


This was written before I learned about the crazy who fired at people at Fashion Island mall in Newport Beach CA. ( )

Years ago, long before even the murders at University of Virginia, Columbine, and Sandy Hook, I wrote an article on how to keep killers out of buildings.

As usual, it was based on lessons learned from Israel, with a little input from NASA.

The process is fairly simple.

First, control access to a building.

For a school, and schools have our attention now, access to the building must be limited to one entrance except for brief periods at the start of the school day. Even then, access via multiple entryways needs to be via "choke points" so that school staff can monitor students entering the building. All adults, including staff, must enter through the main entrance.

The question that pops up in most minds at this point is: If there is limited access, what happens if there's a fire or other reason for s quick exit ? Fire doors; the same as found in theatres and other similar venues. They lock from inside and open by pushing on a bar (which also causes an alarm to sound). Good question; good answer.

Once students are inside the building, all entrances but the primary one are closed. Like emergency exits, ibid., these entrances are locked from inside.

Second, all visitors are forced to enter the building is the main entrance where they will be asked their business and show identification. Office staff will be behind bank-like barriers to prevent anyone from climbing over the counter.

Interior doors to enter the building will be locked; locks will be controlled by the office staff.

For maximum protection, anyone allowed into the populated area - there always are exceptions to the rule - must pass through a double door airlock" arrangement. The person is "buzzed in" to the airlock's first door and held there while scanned for metal weapons. If the scan is negative, the second door is buzzed open.

STANDARD OPERATING PROCEDURE IS THAT ALL NON-STAFF PERSONNEL MUST BE ESCORTED BY AN EMPLOYEE; in the case of schools, preferably by a school "resource" officer (police officer).

Better, send the person to the visitor

While it won't prevent a crazy from killing a person, it will limit death and injury if rather than allowing a person entry into a populated area - say a Post Office sorting area - is to ask the person being visited to come to an isolated visitor area; never allow a visitor into a populated area.

If a parent comes to collect a student, most schools contact the teacher and have the student sent to meet the parent. Allowing parents to roam the halls is prohibited.

What about volunteers? This brings a requirement for, at a minimum, metal detectors.

What Israel does is to pass visitors through an "air lock" fitted with metal detectors. Given the potential of non-mental lethal weapons, profiling, coupled with careful observation is a must.

A brief aside. A terrorist boarded an intercity bus, but was quickly pushed off and subdued by the driver and a passenger. The terrorist has not carrying a visible weapon, yet he was identified for what he was. How? He was inappropriately dressed for the season. (He had intended to slaughter innocents using a bomb hidden beneath his coat.) also utilizes profiling; indeed, it depends more on profiling than machines.

Share problems, even if personal

Years ago I worked for OKI Electronics' telecom division in Fort Lauderdale FL.

During my tenure with the company an angry soon-to-be-divorced husband managed to get into the building - people knew him and he told them he needed to see his wife. He found his wife and killed her.

Had the employee shared with HR, or even her co-workers, her domestic situating, perhaps the husband could have been kept out of the building and the woman would have lived for another day. That's not to say the spurned spouse would not have found another opportunity, but the employer would not have been involved.

Employees - and students' parents, too - should be encouraged to share their concerns with people who can help assure their safety. Assuredly, it requires different techniques for different groups and individuals.

Malls and other open venues

First, there is no excuse for a shooter to be in the mall. It, like schools, should control access, but unlike schools, an "air lock" is probably not feasible.

What the mall management must do is develop - and practice - a plan to protect shoppers and staff by securing access to each store; keep customers inside and, after nearby shoppers outside have a chance to enter, close and lock the store's doors. Customers and staff need a place to hide - something that might appropriately be considered when building the stores.

What can be done about a sniper? Not much.

It seems that we would become a paranoid nation if, hearing shots, we automatically look for cover, but may be necessary. We tell shoppers how to protect themselves from muggers at the mall; telling people to "hit the ground" if they hear gunfire is just another caution. Sad but true.

Gun control?

I'm not in favor of generic gun control.

I think we need more control over who buys weapons, but that only covers people who buy guns through legitimate transactions. Black market and stolen weapons are another matter.

While I strongly support a ban on fully-automatic guns and armor-piercing bullets (I have a son who is a cop), I know that if a person is intent on killing another, the killer can use other weapons - knives, cars, poisons, etc. If mass murder is on the killer's mind, there is a world of explosive possibilities.

How to defend, how to prevent, an attack in the open is beyond this scrivener's expertise.

Earlier I referred to killers as "crazies." I believe a person must be deranged to do what these mass murderers have done. Psychiatric care usually is too little, too late. In many cases, the killer is as dead as his - or her - victims and can offer little insight into what prompted the action. For all that, we must assume something triggered the person to behave as he or she did. THAT is what must be determined and eliminated.

We are not - usually - dealing with fanatics who are after world domination; the shooters in Charlottesville VA, Columbine CO, Sandy Hook CN were deranged individuals who had personal agendas having little or nothing to do with politics.

We can, with a little thought, do better. We can, with a little effort, prevent future slaughters at schools. We must put common sense measures into place so protect our children and to protect people in our businesses.

In the end, I fear putting such measures in place will be akin to the government's noise about reducing the nation's dependency on foreign oil - noise with little, if any, action.

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