Planning a secure school facility

School officials involved in designing new facilities or remodeling existing sites should consider the following steps to ensure the safety of their students:

• Involve your school security team and local law enforcement officials in the planning and design stages. Their perspectives may provide very different, but valuable, insights. Some cities require that site plans be reviewed by the local police department to ensure that officers have good access to all areas of the campus in an emergency.

• Carefully consider the placement of common areas, sites used extensively for after-hours events (such as gyms, auditoriums, cafeterias, and libraries), and other key locations to help control access, limit movement, and open access to selected areas of the school in the evening while limiting access to other areas.

• Review parking lot placement, size, and other factors to best facilitate safe movement and supervision. Separate faculty and student parking areas, as well as parent drop-off and bus drop-off areas. Don’t forget to provide a separate drop-off area for physically challenged students. Before you finalize the site plan, work out the traffic flow with security officials to anticipate high-volume scenarios.

• Consider the importance of “line of sight” in hallways and areas requiring supervision. Maximize opportunities for natural surveillance by placing areas of greatest activity or highest risk in locations where there will be more adult supervision.

• Angle the buildings so they are not parallel to the street, and try to place them several hundred feet away from the street. A buffer between the building and street can be created with landscaping and parking or bus drop-off areas. Also, be selective with the size and placement of windows that face the street.

• When designing a campus plan, direct the circulation of students to the interior of the site, out of sight of public streets.

• Design good security lighting; it should be on a photocell or time clock to ensure that lights come on well before dark. Make sure it provides a minimum of one foot-candle at ground level.

• Use metal halide exterior lighting to allow color identification of clothing when security cameras are used to control exterior space.

• Look into the possibility of a camera system linked to the district security system or even to the local police department. Before you do, however, make sure your community supports the idea of security cameras; if not, the school can become a very tense and volatile place for all.

• Use decorative fencing around a school campus as a deterrent to those who are not authorized access to the grounds. Fencing also lets the administration decide where students will be allowed to enter the campus, thereby providing entry that can be controlled by security personnel.

• Consider panic alarms in parking areas for faculty and staff. Locating alarms near a closed-circuit television camera helps to prevent vandalism and unauthorized use.

• Make sure that fire lane locations have been worked out with local officials and clearly identified. Fire lanes provide access not only for firefighters, but also for police and other emergency personnel.

• Review the site plan with district personnel to establish maintenance plans for landscaping and lighting. Burned-out lights don’t help anyone. n


Compiled from Ronald Peters, “Site Design for Greater Security,” School Planning & Management, July 1999 ( and “Architecture, Design, and School Crime Prevention,” National School Safety and Security Services, (216) 251-3067,

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