Energy posts handbook to help schools boost security

Energy posts handbook to help schools boost security

By Tony Lee Orr

GCN Staff

A guide designed to help school officials use technology to keep campuses safe is based on a Sandia National Laboratories study.

The Energy Department has posted online a school security handbook that seems to respond to the 'I never thought it could happen here' refrain.

The Appropriate and Effective Use of Security Technologies in U.S. Schools, written by a security specialist at Energy's Sandia National Laboratories, is self-described as a 'practical guide for school officials.'

The guidebook is a joint enterprise of Sandia and the Justice, Energy and Education departments.

The book can be downloaded from in Adobe Portal Document, Hypertext Markup Language and ASCII formats.

The handbook's findings are based on a seven-year Sandia study of more than 100 schools, Energy officials said.

The book delves into security and operational issues, as well as video surveillance, weapon detection devices, entry codes and duress alarms.

Schools need the same security information resources that Sandia provides Energy, the Defense Department and other government agencies, said Mary Green, the guidebook's author and a scientist on contract at Sandia.

'There is a huge void of knowledge about technology in the school system,' Green said.

Keep it simple

Scientist Mary Green, the author of the guide, says it may not prevent attacks such as the one in Littleton, Colo., but it could help contain them.

The information is not all highly technical, Green said. 'We often give ordinary technical information so that schools can talk knowledgeably with vendors.'

The information lets local school officials choose what is best for their region.

'School technology can be tailored to meet the needs of an individual school,' Energy Secretary Bill Richardson said. 'We're putting the handbook on the Web in an effort to reach the widest possible audience, because this handbook puts proven techniques for combating school security problems in the hands of administrators, school boards and others who are facing decisions about school safety investments.'

The book may not prevent attacks such as the one last year at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., Green said, but it could help lessen the scope of an attack.

'Any government office can use this information,' she said. 'This is stuff that nowadays everyone should have access to.'

Security strategies in the book include giving administrators the ability to lock down parts of a school if necessary and to control entry to the campus. The book stresses the importance of having a prearranged plan should a security problem arise and of knowing whom to call and exactly what to do.

The handbook could prove to be popular as more schools across the country turn to high-resolution cameras, motion detectors, handheld metal detectors and bar coded student identification cards to help keep campuses safe.

Meanwhile, Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) announced that House and Senate conferees had set final spending levels for the current fiscal year for the departments of Commerce, Justice and State. The budget includes $1 million to fund the senator's proposal for a School Security Technology Center at Sandia.

'With this funding we are saying to our kids that their safety is a top priority,' Bingaman said.


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