What 1st Responders Know About Building Design

Law enforcement, fire officials, emergency management and security professionals can spot safety issues with new construction and renovation plans.

A client told me this week that his school district had just opened a new green school that has caused him considerable concern. The district designed and built it without asking for feedback from local fire, law enforcement, emergency management or their own security director.

Now that the school is open, it has become apparent that there is only suitable tornado sheltering space for about 5% of the student and staff population. As the school is located in a tornado prone region, this could result in mass casualty losses. 

In addition, the school  lacks suitable lockdown space for the majority of staff and students. While discussing this type of problem with another client, he described a superb green campus building in another tornado prone region where ample sheltering areas had been created using reinforced concrete block throughout the school.
Local and state law enforcement, fire service and emergency management personnel are often willing, able and eager to sit down with architects and building planning teams to review building plans and make suggestions to improve security, emergency sheltering, emergency communications and warning and other life saving features. As these dedicated and talented public safety officials do not charge for these valuable services, it may make great sense for campus organizations to seek this type of assistance.
Just as importantly, internal safety, security, risk management and police personnel are also usually able to add considerable value to the design process.  I have seen countless campus buildings with design problems that could have been spotted by public safety officials had they been afforded the opportunity to aid in the design process.
Consider asking the dedicated campus and local public safety personnel to help your organization design safer buildings.

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Tagged with: Construction CPTED

About the Author


Michael Dorn serves as the Executive Director of Safe Havens International, a global non profit campus safety center. During his 30 year campus safety career, Michael has served as a university police officer, corporal, sergeant and lieutenant. He served as a school system police chief for ten years before being appointed the lead expert for the nation's largest state government K-20 school safety center. The author of 25 books on school safety, his work has taken him to Central America, Mexico, Canada, Europe, Asia, South Africa and the Middle East. Michael welcomes comments, questions or requests for clarification at [email protected]. Note: The views expressed by guest bloggers and contributors are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, Campus Safety magazine.

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