How to Beef Up Bus Lot Security

After finding that many school bus yards are lacking preventive measures, a security expert details ways to deter would-be vandals and terrorists, from barbed-wired fencing to automated lighting to surveillance systems.

The physical security of the school bus lot is a sometimes-overlooked but essential part of the security program for any school district or contractor.
There are many ways to improve existing security features, and there are simple ways to begin a physical security program.

Having a well-established and well-maintained physical security program will lessen the chances of theft, tampering and vandalism for any school bus operation. This in turn saves money and lowers operating costs.

Prior to the start of this school year, I visited numerous school bus lots in the Midwest while performing independent research. I discovered that approximately 60 percent of those lots had implemented no physical security measures to protect their school buses.

This should be a concern not only for those districts, but all districts. Should, for example, terrorists attempt to use school buses in an attack, it would not be difficult for them to gain access to one. U.S. intelligence knows some terrorist organizations have already conducted planning and scouting for this very purpose.

The districts that had no physical security of their buses were also opening themselves up to theft and vandalism. Those acts can cost a district or contractor thousands of dollars in repairs and replacements. It is better, and cheaper, to implement good physical security. Here are some cost-effective and simple ways to either begin a physical security
program or upgrade an existing program.

Restrict access

The most important aspect of a physical security program is access control. If people are able to walk directly up to a school bus, there is no physical security. The easiest way to avoid improper access is to position all of the school buses in one central location. Keeping the buses together allows them to be protected without having to create physical security at numerous locations.

Once all buses are located together on one lot, a fence must surround them. A typical eight-foot chain-link fence will be sufficient. If your operation cannot afford an eight-foot fence, one that is shorter will have to work. It is better to have some type of fence than no fence at all.

Triple-strand barbed wire toppers placed at a 45-degree angle at the top of the fence will keep all but the most determined out of the area. Additionally, vision-reducing material can be placed in chain-link fence to prevent people from looking into the secure area.

Gates in the fence must be kept locked, and the keys to those locks must be controlled. One way to ensure that locks and keys are not lost, and to ensure that improper key copying does not take place, is to have a signout roster. The bus lot manager will have access to the keys and sign them out only when needed, only as long as needed, and to only those who must have them. This will be recorded and logged, so if something were to happen, there is a record as to who had the keys and when. If keys are lost or stolen, all the locks should be replaced.

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