Utah School Security Task Force discusses building design solutions

Aug 7, 2023, 7:29 PM | Updated: Aug 8, 2023, 10:01 am

SALT LAKE CITY — As families prepare to head back to school, the Utah School Security Task Force met at the Utah State Capitol on Monday to discuss improving school building security and design to better protect students and staff.

“100% secure is not really achievable because we have to have access in and out, but we can reduce the risk,” said Randy Watt, former Ogden City Police Chief and President of SRW, Inc., a private security and training company.

Watt said schools across Utah need to cut down on the gap time, the time between when a violent act occurs on campus and when law enforcement makes contact with the violent offender.

“The national average for a response to a school shooting incident is seven and a half minutes,” he told the task force.

Lessons in the lockdown: Can one school’s response to shots fired help improve safety plans in Utah?

Watt presented a comprehensive plan to the Utah School Safety Task Force that included both short-term and long-term safety goals broken into three categories: physical measures, technology applications, and personal activities.

He detailed the need for fences, gated access, channelized routes, and limited access points, as well as early warning systems, firearm detection, and camera monitoring.

The task force also heard from Lance Everill, the Emergency Operations Manager for the Jordan School District.

Everill described the district’s efforts over the past decade to campus security. An effort, he said, that was brought into focus after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary.

“Every single person has a responsibility in school safety and security,” Everill told the task force.

He said right now, schools can make simple changes to improve campus security. First, reduce vegetation near windows for clear visibility.

“If somebody is intent on causing harm we don’t want to be surprised when they’re right in front of us,” Everill said.

Utah lawmakers introduce school safety bills

Everill suggests clearing out the clutter in the school hallway. Not only does it minimize obstacles for a person to hide behind, but it also reduces the fire load.

He also recommends a single access point, locked doors, and mandatory ID’s for staff and visitors.

“Filtering can be as simple as wearing an ID badge around your neck, and from a distance, anyone of you can tell I work at the school, and the person next to me without a badge doesn’t,” he said.

The Utah School Security Task Force is responsible for standardizing school security policies and procedures across the state. To read more about its role and responsibility, visit this link.

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Utah School Security Task Force discusses building design solutions