Industry Solutions Required to Help Protect Our Communities

Industry Solutions Required to Help Protect Our Communities

After the recent mass shooting tragedies (over 250 for the year so far), once again we are talking as a nation about what we can do to keep students and communities safe.

I don’t have the answer when it comes to preventing these horrific events. Like some of you, I’m thankful my children are grown and that my grandchildren are too young to do lockdown drills at school yet. There are many families, however, who constantly face the reality of violence in schools and carry that fear daily. I imagine that, instead of one answer, there are many, and it will take a combination of solutions to provide the maximum protection to our students, teachers, and community members.

Many building product manufacturers, like Vetrotech, have products that address security issues. But there’s one thing I do know: products alone aren’t a solution.

Our industry needs to address school safety in the building code itself, and that’s exactly what we’re working on, via ASTM International Committees F12.10 and E54.05 and their development of a new Standard on Mitigation of Armed Aggressors in Educational Intuitions. Their scope: “Describe risk and threat analysis, design, specification, selection and application of building plans and systems to minimize the impact of armed aggressors in educational institutions.”

Other forthcoming standards include:

  • NFPA 3000: Standard for an Active Shooter/Hostile Event Response (ASHER) Program
  • ICC International Code Committee: Ad Hoc Committee on Building Safety
  • FEMA 428: Primer to Design Safe School Projects in Case of Terrorist Attacks and School Shootings
  • NGA: Technical Paper FB43-14, Fabricating Committee AND School Security Glazing task group
  • There are many architectural solutions that new schools are including in their design, from curved hallways (like the ones in Fruitport High School in Michigan) to protective glass. Security considerations don’t look the same for every building, and protective glass serves many functions. It adds daylighting (proven to have many health and educational benefits) as well as unobstructed sightlines and clear views of approaching visitors.

    It’s also multifunctional, providing protection from fire in addition to intruders.

    Unfortunately, protective glazing is all too often “value-engineered” out of school projects due to budgets, so without these code requirements, our infrastructure—and particularly schools—have a delicate balancing act to maintain.

    I look forward to the time when we have a uniform specification so that architects do not have to rely on building product manufacturers to provide information on how to make our communities safer. There is so much potential upon which to build within the design of our schools that can optimize the learning environment while keeping students and faculty secure while on the premises.

    We can’t solve the whole problem, but we can make a start together. 

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