An intruder assessment is one of the most valuable things any school leader can do to assess the safety of their school. This process is one of the first things I do when I conduct a school safety audit. During an intruder assessment I’ll put myself in the shoes of an unidentified person trying to gain access to a campus.
I’ll start by recording how long it takes me to enter the building, the areas where I was able to gain access to a campus, and how long I was on the campus before someone engaged with me. Throughout my 30 campus audits I’ve done, I’ve been able to access every single school.
It’s not that schools aren’t safe, it’s that often there are holes in the school’s safety initiatives that are hard to see from a campus perspective. It takes an outsider to find the areas and suggest solutions for making the campus safer.
What are the common entrance points for a campus intruder?
While conducting intruder assessments and school safety audits, I’ve noticed a number of common entrance points for a campus intruder. Many of the common points of entrance involve slipping in with the help of a staff member or student, or following closely behind as people enter.
Here are some common ways I’ve gotten in:
- Gym doors are always open.
- Motioning at the door to a student to open the door and let me in often works.
- Walking in the back door of the cafeteria. No one ever questioned me about why I was walking through the kitchen. One time, a worker was taking a call on her cell phone as she was opening the door to step outside. I walked right past her and there were no questions.
- Following teachers and students into the building.
- Walking across the playground as students & teachers were outside & entering an open gate and then into the open door of the school.
How long does it take campuses to respond?
Getting into the school without alerting someone is one issue, but another common issue is how long it takes a campus to recognize I don’t belong. Here’s what I’ve noticed:
- The longest I’ve been in a school is 27 minutes before someone asked if I needed help.
- Teachers walk right by me, even greet me in the hallways.
- I’ve been in the library, sat down, and stayed several minutes and got up to leave. I made eye contact with the librarian. I never was asked who I was.
- I’ve been in classrooms, talking to students and the teacher never asked who I was.
Ways you can improve your safety from intruders:
When it comes to improving your school’s safety from intruders, the easiest way is to be diligent about following campus policies.
Make sure the doors are always locked.
This is an easy one to miss because our schools and campuses might have plenty of outside doors. Check these doors regularly to make sure they lock from the outside, you can even work it into your daily / nightly checklist.
Train teachers and staff to be aware of visitors.
Teachers and other staff members have a lot going on, it can be easy for them to forget common policies. Train your teachers to not let anyone in the building unless they enter through the front office and get a visitor’s badge.
Instruct them to, when they see someone without a badge, ask them to go to the front office to sign in. Training your custodians, cafeteria workers, and even substitute teachers on this policy ensures that it’s a shared campus responsibility.