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As we explore the security options for America’s roughly 98,000 public schools, we quickly realize that there are many challenges inherent in outfitting these facilities with bullet resistant glass systems. According to Total Security Solutions vice president Jim Richards, an expert in ballistic security design and implementation, the challenge is that, architecturally, no two schools are alike: “Banks might look different, but they have fundamentally similar designs, because they have the same business processes. But every school is completely different. How you might secure a school in my neighborhood is completely different from how you might secure a school in yours.”
Jewish Community Centers and religious schools–which face very serious security concerns in many areas–must cope with the same architectural challenges. Over the years working with these communities, Total Security Solutions has developed strategies that offer a template for ballistic security in the public school.
BULLET RESISTANT GLASS FOR JEWISH COMMUNITY CENTERS
As of last year 63 percent of US hate crimes against religious groups were anti-Jewish–meaning that a group comprising between 1 and 2 percent of the US population was the target of more than 12 percent of all hate crimes. At least one-third of the time these attacks targeted a Jewish Community Center, school, or house of worship. For this reason Jewish communities have worked closely with their local law enforcement, the FBI, and the Department of Homeland Security to develop security plans and procedures. They have generally embraced a two-pronged approach:
1. BUILDING HARDENING WITH BULLET RESISTANT GLASS
Because so many threats against Jewish organizations include vandalism, breaking and entering, explosives, or arson, the Department of Homeland Security has supported the use of forced-entry rated bullet resistant glass in the exterior windows of these facilities. Buildings with brick, concrete, cinderblock, or stone construction need not worry about reinforcing their exterior walls with bullet resistant fiberglass.
2. ACCESS CONTROL WITH BULLET RESISTANT GLASS VESTIBULES
All exterior doors should be secured, and all visitors received only through the front entrance. Most schools and community centers already have glassed-in double-door vestibules, which help reduce heating and cooling costs. These can be easily converted into secured reception areas by replacing the existing glazing and frames with bullet resistant glass and UL-rated ballistic framing. The doors are then outfitted with remotely controlled electric strikes.
In small communities a receptionist will recognize most visitors on sight and be able to buzz them through directly; otherwise they are met at the door by a security guard. In larger communities–where the receptionist and security personnel cannot be expected to immediately recognize most of the community members–facility managers and security teams often prefer to install a ballistic transaction window in the reception area, so that the receptionist can check identification before letting anyone past the front doors.