Teacher at school in front of the bus

AEGIX Vulnerability Assessments Identify the Gaps in Office Buildings, Security, School Safety

Vulnerability assessments are essential for helping those responsible for providing safety and security in buildings, such as schools and office buildings, to identify potential safety risks. Vulnerability assessments involve a comprehensive review of the facility, including areas such as entrances, design and use of landscaping, use of surveillance systems, emergency exits and so on. Expert observations can then be used to identify any key safety risks that may exist in and around the building and make recommendations for improvement. By properly assessing risk and implementing preventative measures, schools and offices can create a safe and secure environment for students and staff alike. Ultimately, vulnerability assessments are an important step in ensuring the safety of any building’s occupants.

A helpful tool to assess the potential vulnerability of an area is the CPTED (Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design) assessment, which looks at how the environment itself can be used to prevent crime and protect occupants. For example, installing adequate lighting in dark areas that can expose or remove places where criminals could hide. The goal is to leverage CPTED in an attempt to minimize crime or the fear of crime by reducing criminal opportunities while encouraging its use by legitimate users. The core pillars of an evaluation include natural surveillance, access control, territorial reinforcement and maintenance.

Natural surveillance looks at ways to increase visibility of people and property by strategically arranging physical elements such as vegetation or windows. When evaluating natural surveillance, an expert will observe how these elements can be used to maximize visibility and minimize hiding places. Architecturally, large windows can be designed in the lobby of the building to ensure those at the front desk–or in classrooms–can see what is happening outside to give them time to react if they see something or someone dangerous or suspicious. It also puts potential threating individuals on notice, that they are being seen by others.

Access control physically guides people who are coming into and leaving from a space. By intentionally placing landscaping, lighting, signage, fencing and other directing features, visitors have direct, obvious and safe access to locations in and around a building. An assessor would evaluate the layout of the building and property to limit potential unwanted and unauthorized access. Additionally, mechanical access control could include access control systems such as card readers and locks, as well as physical barriers or fences. This form of evaluation is especially important when it comes to schools since they often have many doors (and other access points) which are difficult to continually monitor for unauthorized access.

Territorial reinforcement is a principle that looks at how physical elements can be used to communicate welcomeness to authorized and notice to unauthorized presence. It can be used to psychologically thwart unauthorized access to an area. For those who belong, like students in a school, it helps them feel safe and secure in their environment by establishing boundaries between public and private spaces and who is authorized to be there. For example (at a school) parking lots with associated signage indicate who is authorized to park in certain spaces such as “visitor parking” or “student parking.” Entrances may indicate “check in” locations or prohibited locations. If an adult parked in student parking, then made his way into the school via a side door rather than checking in at the main office, an observer would instantly recognize the problem and be able to report it and respond. In other locations putting up signs that read NOTICE: No Visitors Beyond This Point Hospital Personnel Only, velvet ropes in a museum, or wayfinding flooring patterns to direct people where to go and where they are not authorized to be,clearly sets boundaries and are easily recognized. Territorial reinforcement tactics designed to limit unauthorized access can even include certain types of art. For instance, portraits depicting people of authority with intent gazes can make those who enter the space feel as if they are being watched.

Finally, maintenance evaluates how an area is being cared for on an ongoing basis. Maintenance includes specific standards to ensure safety. An assessor will verify if the lights are functioning and effective, check locks on the doors and outside gates, see if any signage is unreadable (sun-bleached or covered with mud), is trash cleared, etc. They will also review the landscaping, which is a critical element because if foliage has grown too high, it can block the view and negate the natural surveillance benefits of a clear view. Tree limbs should be cut to a height of six feet or above and bushes should be no more than two-feet tall.

Vulnerability assessments play an important role in developing effective strategies to reduce potential hazards, crime and fear of crime. They help to create better emergency management plans so that if unexpected problems arise, they can be quickly addressed. The assessment will also inquire about existing safety protocols and if they are being followed properly.

Upon completion of the CPTED Assessment and others, if necessary, the AEGIX team will produce a report with recommendationsfor improvements and recommended training. AEGIX AIM (Active Incident Management) works hand in hand with the assessment and training. AIM technology builds upon these base-level plans and recommendations to take communication and emergency management to much more effective levels. For example, if an unauthorized individual got through the front doors and past the lobby and was seen walking in an area where he clearly was unauthorized, the observer could use AIM immediately notify others to take action. They could immediately initiate a lockdown, shelter in place or any other practiced directive to keep occupants safe if the person was seen as a threat to safety. An essential element to note is that training is critical. A school can have a good building layout, good technology, good plans and protocols, but it means little without proper training. If the people are adequately trained to act according to the protocols, particularly in high-stress or terrifying situations, it will save lives.

Masked Fireteam of Armed SWAT Police Officers Storm a Dark Seized Office Building with Desks and Computers. Soldiers with Rifles and Flashlights Move Forwards and Cover Surroundings.

Minimizing the Chaos and Panic of School Swatting Hoax Threats

As America continues to struggle with mass shootings, another trend, called swatting, has recently put school principals, legislators, parents and students on high alert. K-12 schools and universities are experiencing a wave of false reports of school shootings and campus threats.

Swatting is where someone threatens to harm another person or institution, such as a school, through various forms of deceptive tactics such as claiming they are armed and dangerous or have access to weapons on school premises. The intention behind this type of hoax is often to terrorize the victim and tie up first responders. Even though these actions are hoaxes, they have shown to bring trauma and other devastating consequences for students, staff, and law enforcement because in the moment, the threats are very real.

Why Swatting is a Serious Problem

Swatting is a dangerous and criminal activity that involves falsely reporting a serious and immediate threat, such as an active shooter at a local school to law enforcement in order to provoke an emergency response–including SWAT teams, hence the name swatting. Swatting is not a harmless prank, but a serious crime that wastes valuable police resources, causes panic and chaos, jeopardizes innocent lives and can have tragic consequences.

The goal of swatting is usually to send heavily armed police officers to a public or private building. This alarming trend has been on the rise in recent years, as swatters use technology to mask their identity and create false emergency situations. Many of the calls received are computer-generated and use caller ID spoofing to hide the identity of the perpetrators, but not always.

Not only can this cause serious harm to the individuals being targeted, but it can also put their family members, neighbors, and first responders in harm’s way. In fact, there have been multiple instances where swatting incidents have resulted in injuries and even deaths due to chaos and confusion at the scene.

Calming the Chaos in an Emergency

Managing an emergency, whether large or small, the right way can mean the difference between a positive, peaceful resolution or a tragic end. AEGIX AIM was created to help effectively manage emergencies of all types from a flood in the cafeteria to school shootings to earthquakes. AIM, which stands for Active Incident Management was recently used during a major swatting hoax.

One week prior to a multi-state swatting incident, the AIM app was installed on the phones of all the administrators, teachers and staff at Spanish Fork High School. The Spanish Fork police department, sheriff’s department and fire department all are on the platform as well.

The police received a voice call saying there was an active shooter somewhere at Spanish Fork High School and two students had been shot. When the police arrived at the school, Principal Matt Christensen opened the app and hit “lockdown.” Upon hearing the alarm on their phones, teachers immediately were able to push a button in the app to report themselves and their classroom as “safe” or “unsafe.” If safe, their classroom shows up on the interactive map as green, if unsafe, it is red. Officers on the scene had access the maps, which meant they did not have to wait for information to be relayed to them, they could see in real-time which classrooms and buildings were marked as safe. If they were marked as unsafe, police would know exactly where the source of danger is in the school, saving precious minutes, which can save lives. The system also has a chat feature that proved absolutely critical during the emergency. Teachers and administrators were able to clearly communicate with each other to quickly account for every person on campus. Law enforcement could see this information and use the chat feature as a way to communicate with specific individuals or everyone on the system.

During the event, students were on their phones where they were seeing false reports and rumors that added to the terror, fear and confusion they were all feeling. Teachers were able to address the false information by showing their phones with the app to students and telling them, “This is what’s real, and this is what’s happening.” This served to calm the students in an extremely high-stress situation.

After about 30 minutes, the Administrative Lieutenant at the Spanish Fork Police Department used the app to inform teachers and staff that the active shooter threat was indeed a hoax and instructed them that officers would be coming to clear their classrooms and make sure everyone was safe.

Bart Thompson, Assistant Principle said, “I will say, for the 21 years I have been in education, the single most troubling thing to think about is an active shooter. On that day, we didn’t know it was a hoax. For 24 minutes, it was real—we had an active shooter and we had deceased students. As an educator and a parent, that day changed me forever. I can’t imagine doing what we did that day without the app—the trauma would have been amplified. Things like this have always been a ‘what if.’ After this experience, I can look a parent in the eyes and tell them we have the tools to keep your students safe.”