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January 2023

Thinking Outside the Building to Find Safety Solutions
Shootings in schools are occurring with unfortunate regularity, prompting national and local discussions about ways to keep students and educators safe.
Potential solutions run the gamut from physical deterrents to mental health interventions. Maryland is considering a software platform that uses artificial intelligence to detect guns and alert authorities.
The A/E/C community is a key participant in these conversations, offering creativity and real-world knowledge about how buildings affect those who use them. The Credential sought out two experts to share their thoughts for industry professionals to consider. Read Part 1 for more food for thought on creating safe environments.
      Justin R Wolf                                     Roe Gammon
Justin R Wolf is a writer, editor, and content strategist for the A/E/C industry, based in Minneapolis. Roe Gammon is a security consultant for Henderson Engineers, a Kansas City-area firm. Their answers have been edited for length.
What's your vision for change on the future of school safety? What is being implemented now in the A/E/LA/C community?
Wolf:  I am all in for making our schools secure and safe, but not at the cost of sacrificing these institutions' value as a source for public good. Public education is a right, and when our built expressions of that right come to resemble one big panic room, we have failed as a society.
We can always do better. We can design for safety and equity. We can build out an infrastructure of mental health support that is preventative and empathetic. However, I believe deep down that engaging in any of these discussions -- even in good faith -- without discussing issues of gun violence, gun access and gun culture will only prove to be half-measures.
Gammon:  Security in any context comes down to a threat model, which can be determined through five questions:
  1. What do you want to protect?
  2. Who or what do you want to protect it from?
  3. What is the likelihood you will have to protect a given asset from a given threat?
  4. What are the consequences of failure?
  5. What cost are you willing to endure to provide protection?
In protecting staff and students from active shooters, the consequences of failure at any level are unacceptable, and protection is worth significant cost. This leaves the question of likelihood, which brings us back to ability and desire
To see the absurdity of extremes, we can think about a building with no walls where every person is extremely violent. This would self-destruct on Day 1. At the opposite end, we have a maximum-security prison with (somehow) happy children. The environment itself is threatening and fights against learning and healthy social interaction. Flipping the extremes to an open building with happy students still leaves them vulnerable to outside attacks, and maximum-security prisons with extreme violence already self-perpetuate.
Ability and desire are both security factors the A/E/C industry can and must influence, though it can only ever be one of many necessary solutions. Our primary role in this is to drive projects toward harmony of interior support and exterior hardening.
The Credential thanks Justin and Roe for sharing their opinions and expertise with our readers. We strive to provide value to A/E/LA professionals by keeping them up to date on industry news as well as personal and company credentials, saving time and allowing you to do what you do best. Please contact us at 913-608-7880 for a free consultation session,
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