Question of the Month: With active shooters on the rise, shouldn’t every building or floor have a safe-haven?

August 15, 2017 - Design / Build
Doug Haines, 
Haines Security Solutions

The short answer is, “yes.” The longer answer is not as complicated as it may initially seem. Let me illustrate by telling you a story.

I recently visited a very close friend at her place of work as she had recently been promoted to her new position as chief, security operations North America for a very large multi-national firm. She met me at the security desk in the lobby. No guard, just a kiosk where I signed-in by filling out a short questionnaire; i.e., my name, who I represented, who I was going to see. The kiosk also scanned my ID and told me to wait. A few minutes later, she showed up. She walked me over to the coffee bar. We grabbed a cup and headed to her “office.” 

Actually, despite her position she shared a ginormous space with everyone else in the firm. The open office “creativity – thought provoking atmosphere” so commonly used these days in the corporate environment. She told me her staff usually sat in this area, the lawyers over there, logistics in the corner. On the perimeter of the space, near the windows were office spaces of varying sizes for meetings. With the exception of a single wall where the whiteboard hung, they all were made of glass and had glass doors. Everyone had a window seat.

After we finished talking about families and what we had done since seeing each other a few years back, the conversation turned to “shop talk.”  We talked about a variety of threat scenarios and one in particular caught my attention – executive protection in the work place. We talked about executive protection while traveling but her concern was with the “how do I protect my principal while she’s in her office?” So, being a farm boy from Indiana I asked her to show me why she was so concerned.

Protecting the “C” Suite

She took me to another part of another vast room. There was a single very large cubicle against the outer wall, so the building windows formed the back wall of the office and the other three walls were made of glass. In essence, it was a huge glass box. The boss lady could look out over her entire empire. My friend’s concern was that the safe-haven (safe-room/panic room) was through the office doorway and in the center of the big room. There was a keypad lock on the door and the walls were not ballistically hardened.

This presented two problems; first, in the case of an active shooter or kidnapping attempt the “boss lady” would have had to go towards the threat and pass by them on her way to the safe-room. Second, she would have had to swipe her identification badge and punch in her PIN to unlock the door, thereby wasting valuable time.

Both of these problems rendered the solutions they had contrived as being ineffective.

I suggested to her that first, take the lock off the door and use the room for storage. Second, replace the cubicle office with laminated glass, including the entry door. Or, build another office using ballistic resistant materials with a comparable door immediately adjacent to her cubicle that she could run into, preferably away from the office entrance.

Well, What About 

Everyone Else?

Doesn’t everyone deserve protection, too? I think so. So while constructing a safe-haven for the boss, why not turn a couple of the larger conference rooms into safe-havens using the same concepts by using ballistic resistant materials that are already on the market. I would venture to say that her situation was not a-typical. I can imagine the same scenario plays out consistently across the country in just about every large corporate headquarters. The usual thought process is, there’s security in the lobby and that’s enough. Well, unfortunately a single guard on duty in the lobby or at a gate, and an access control system similar to what you find in the metro is not enough. Those with bad intentions will get in. 

So, the question becomes, “How do we protect all of the people if the perimeter is breached?”

Doug Haines, MPSE, is owner/CEO of Haines Security Solutions, Ventura, Calif.

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