Sunday, February 16, 2020

Security - It Really is a T or F Question

I know many of you when you read the title thought, “Yep, security is a true or false question.  You’ve either got it or you don’t.  Well, purposefully I didn’t spell out what the T and F stood for. It isn’t true or false.

As many of you know, for some time now I’ve been advocating for a softer approach to security, especially when it comes to the design and layout of high-occupancy spaces.  And during my years of advocacy I’m come across some, who will agree, and others that play lip service and say, “Oh yea, that’s what we should do.”  And when they have their next opportunity to make the change they go back to their olds ways with the bigger, better, faster, stronger, in your face approach.
Recently, while collaborating with a local school district we took a softer approach.  After an active shooter threat (fortunately stopped prior to being carried out due to social media monitoring), parents wanted the District to heighten security by adding guards and cameras, and constructing fences on the perimeter.  They wanted this because that’s what they’ve been seeing on TV.  After every school shooting, there’s a rush to install more cameras, higher fences, and to hire more guards.  I don’t blame the parents; I blame the security companies who are selling their products with the idea that if one is good, two must be better – the more products sold the better for the bottom-line.  Some may argue that adding visible, in your face, deterrence works.  I’ll admit, there is some benefit; however, a dedicated threat will not be deterred – they will bring the tools necessary to circumvent whatever is in place. That said, we can argue until the cows come home about the benefits.  From my point of view, it’s not about effectiveness.  It’s about the psychological impact it has on our youth.  Recently, a local school board approved a bond for security upgrades.  The newspaper ran a picture of a ten foot metal fence gate to allow campus entry and mentioned that everyone would go through a metal detector.  I showed the article to a Latino friend of mine and he said, “They’re always looking at us like we’re all criminals.  The guys are in gangs and the girls are ‘ho’s.”  Is this the intended message?

Additionally, research shows us that “hardening” causes anxiety and even affects performance.

Our approach is to add security features that are “hidden in plain sight”.  For example, instead of a fence to keep out trespasser we suggest a buried co-axial cable sensor system.  It provides a warning that someone has breached the perimeter, yet is unseen.  Another example, to keep unauthorized folks off of the roof we suggest placing large flower pots with bougainvillea near drainage pipes or next to other features that a person could climb to get to the roof.   Again, a solution that is unseen.

My article published in American Security Today magazine January 2020

So which message do we want to send?  The message that we don’t trust you and we think there will be an incident or the message that we trust you, we expect you to act trustworthy and you can expect the same of others?

My book, The Solutions Matrix: a  Practical Guide to Soft Security Engineering for Architects, Engineers, Facility Managers, Planner and Security Professionals has a Quick Glance Checklist that will allow you to list your current security solutions and then list your ideas on how to take a softer approach.  Order your copy today via the CONTACT US link at

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