How to Prevent Bombings at Campus Events

Access control, metal detection and limiting the size of packages allowed into your event will help boost security.

The 2013  Boston Marathon explosions prompted campuses across the nation to tighten the security of their graduations and other public events. The good news for schools and universities is that unlike the Boston Marathon, which by its very nature had limited or no access control, admittance to commencement ceremonies can be much more easily managed.

“Search the venue beforehand, lock it down, declare it clear of possible problems and then control the access to it after,” advises Charles Kirchner, who trained the first explosives detection dog in the world and worked for the Washington, D.C. Police Department for 20 years. Campuses that do this can then limit what attendees bring into the venue.

Event security officers can use metal detection equipment to screen for weapons, although these devices usually can’t detect the presence of explosives, chemicals or biological agents. Venue employees should also be screened, issued photo IDs and undergo background checks if resources permit.

Additionally, Kirchner recommends that law enforcement, campus staff and the general public be trained how to identify suspicious activities and packages. They should also be trained how to respond should something be reported.

Unfortunately, law enforcement and campus personnel sometimes move suspicious packages, putting themselves and the public at risk and destroying possible evidence. This is what happened Monday when a teacher at a Colorado high school, who discovered an explosives device inside a paper bag, took it outside rather than waiting for the bomb squad to remove it.

Moving supicious packages is even more common when law enforcement officers or campus staff don’t realize they are handling a bomb.

“They declare, ‘It’s probably only someone bringing their lunch in,’ and they pick up and move things,” he says. “They are just lucky to this point that there hasn’t been a serious injury.”

Here are some of the specific measures that campuses are taking this year to improve graduation security:

  • Increase police and security officer presence
  • Ban attendees from bringing large packages, boxes, backpacks, etc. inside the venue
  • Limit number of family members/guests attending the event to two per graduate
  • Ban balloons, banners, noisemakers and confetti
  • Move the venue inside
  • Deploy walk-through metal detectors at entrances

Charles Kirchner can be reached at Photo courtesy


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About the Author

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Robin has been covering the security and campus law enforcement industries since 1998 and is a specialist in school, university and hospital security, public safety and emergency management, as well as emerging technologies and systems integration. She joined CS in 2005 and has authored award-winning editorial on campus law enforcement and security funding, officer recruitment and retention, access control, IP video, network integration, event management, crime trends, the Clery Act, Title IX compliance, sexual assault, dating abuse, emergency communications, incident management software and more. Robin has been featured on national and local media outlets and was formerly associate editor for the trade publication Security Sales & Integration. She obtained her undergraduate degree in history from California State University, Long Beach.

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