The massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School has brought discussions about mental health and gun control to the forefront once again.
A local security expert says those discussions need to happen -- but there's something much more important that has to be done right away.
Don Rondeau is the president of Rockville-based Total Security Services International. He's trained homeland security officers, and he's done post-incident analysis of high-profile incidents including the DC-area sniper and the Columbine High School shootings.
He says you could take all 300-million firearms owned by civilians in the United States away right now, and the children in our schools would still not be 100% safe.
That's why Rondeau says if school systems don't take rapid steps to improve security at their buildings, blame for the next mass-killing at a school will be on them.
“I simply don't believe we assign a great enough priority to schools and children,” he said. “Try walking into an airport and just walking around where ever you want to go. And parking where ever you want to park. Well, you can't do that in most airports. Not without being challenged. Not without a pronounced security presence.”
He says after Sandy Hook there can be no more excuses.
“We've got to get our head out of the sand and recognize that we are vulnerable where we cannot afford to be. Where our children go to school,” Rondeau said.
He says the first step school systems must take is to do a threat-vulnerability assessment at every one of their buildings.
“You identify where you're vulnerable, you define those risks, and then you apply security measures to counter those risks,” Rondeau said.
And countering risks does not have to mean making schools look like prisons.
“There is a way to blend physical security with technology, with processes and best practices in a way that doesn't alarm the kids, doesn't negatively impact the learning environment, but protects them,” Rondeau said.
Does the United States need more gun control? A valid discussion, Rondeau says..
A better mental health system? Probably -- but addressing those will take time. Too much time, he believes, to protect kids. “No more surprises. It's going to happen again unless we do things drastically different.”
Rondeau says his company has a system called "Responder View" that can help schools address safety concerns. In many cases schools can get a federal grant to help pay for the service.
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