Security of Programs and Facilities


This guidance will enable you to review the security of the facilities you operate for your programming. While no guidance document can represent a comprehensive review, our hope is that the advice below provides you with a solid starting point for review and for improvements.

Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED)

Preventing crime and violence is often addressed via efforts to change behaviors, but the physical environment should be addressed, as well. If it’s designed appropriately, it can prevent access to those who intend to do harm. Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) principles allow you to provide a clear direction to reducing the likelihood of incidents from occurring at your facilities.

The principles of CPTED facilitate and enhance campus safety, and they center on three areas:


  • Having a single access point or entrance for visitors.
  • Reducing the number of secondary entries around the perimeter and to buildings.
  • Monitoring entry to the facility from a single point.
  • Providing multiple physical barriers to entry: man-traps or vestibules, access gates, etc.
  • Screening visitors and requiring them to wear ID tags.
  • Require your staff to wear an ID or T-shirt to be easily identifiable at all times at all facilities.


  • Ensuring clear lines of sight by removing unnecessary obstacles and trimming vegetation.
  • Limiting hiding places (e.g. raising signs off the ground, lowering bushes).
  • Improving lighting, limiting shadows or installing convex mirrors in dark or secluded areas.


  • Clearly defining the edges of school/facility property with tree plantings or fences to enforce that the school/facility is not a general public-access space.
  • Individualizing areas of the school/facility (e.g., arts department, science department) to promote boundaries and “pride of ownership,” as well as to aid identification of unauthorized individuals.
  • Keeping up good maintenance—a clean, well cared-for facility fosters pride and orderliness.

Life Skills Interventions

CPTED can only go so far in preventing access. It’s important that your staff is knowledgeable of all access points, both indoor and outdoor, and can monitor them accordingly. It’s also important they are trained and practiced in interpersonal skills for unfamiliar interactions. When unfamiliar faces gain access to the facility used by your program, a well-timed intervention can prevent and/or limit harm.

Conversation vs. Confrontation

Approaching a stranger about the validity of their presence is a moment of truth for your staff. Arm them with training and practice that encourages using the power of conversation to determine a stranger’s intentions. For example, “How may I help you?” will be a more effective approach than “Who are you?” in these situations. Continuing engagement with the stranger in a conversational tone will further enable staff to determine intentions, and then act accordingly.

Physical Security: Locks, Alarms, Cameras and More

Life skills intervention programs and CPTED improvements are great starts. But an additional measure is physical security—the reinforcement of the facility using hardware and technology components to complement the proper procedural elements. This form of security reduces the risk of crime and school violence by allowing the administration to control and monitor access to any area of the facility. Other practical guidelines reduce situations or environments that may encourage criminal or vandalizing acts.

In facilities or communities where there is a history of crime, physical security enhancements help to “target harden.” Target hardening might include such things as installing video cameras, metal detectors, or alarm systems or hiring security personnel to send the message that it will be harder to perpetrate a crime or violence at the facility. Security technologies can increase detection and delay or slow a perpetrator’s progress, but establishing and enforcing consequences must accompany them if crime and violence are to be reduced. Employing security guards or stationing law enforcement personnel at the school/facility are also options.

A recent research report from the National Institute of Justice entitled The Appropriate and Effective Use of Security Technologies in U.S. Schools: A Guide For Schools and Law Enforcement Agencies provides non-technical, non-vendor specific information on:

  • Security products available.
  • Strengths, weaknesses, and expected effectiveness of these products in schools.
  • Costs of products—installation, operation, maintenance, manpower, and training expenses.
  • Requirements to specify in order to get a suitable product.
  • Related legal issues.

The report covers video surveillance (cameras, video recording equipment), metal detectors (walk-through, hand-held scanners, x-ray baggage scanners), entry control technologies and duress alarm devices.

Additional Tips to Enhance Security—Basic Steps Can Be Very Effective

  • Review and practice Crisis and Emergency Action Plans with all staff, so that in the event of an actual emergency, the most efficient and safe actions are taken as if they were second nature.
  • Review these practices with the school staff or staff of other off-site locations.
  • Consult with local law enforcement and fire department on best practices for security and emergency action plans.
  • Be sure the school/facility has a visitor’s policy. Test it by walking in the building and verifying that you’re asked to sign in or show proper identification.
  • Unmonitored doors should stay locked from the outside at all times to prevent unauthorized persons or items from entering the building unnoticed.
  • Students entering and exiting the school property should be monitored.
  • Have all staff wear staff shirts and/or nametags to help clarify who children can trust and go to for help.
  • Teach the kids to call attention to a new person in the area. They can help alert an otherwise distracted staff member of the presence of a stranger.
  • Provide your counselors with walkie-talkies. This can offer rapid and easy communication that is beneficial in both emergency and non-emergency situations.
    • If your staff use cell phones instead of walkie-talkies, make sure they know what number to call.
  • Establish an emergency phrase that all staff know (e.g., “Johnny is at Disney World” could alert other staff that Johnny is missing; “Sesame Street is the name of the game” could alert other staff that the children should be hurried to safety).
  • Check the Locks and Doors—The First Line of Defense
    • Good locks are the first line of defense. Volunteer to lead a team to ensure the physical security of your school.
    • Check for high security locks or electronic access control units on all doors. Remember to check closets that have private information or hazardous materials, outside doors, and basements.
    • Verify that any electronic access control unit in use has secure key bypass using patented control of duplication of keys. Any access control unit is only as good as its mechanical override devices.
    • Make sure all doors are solid. Look for sheet steel on both sides of back and basement doors.
    • Make sure doorframes and hinges are in good condition and strong enough that they cannot be pried open.
    • Be certain all windows are secure.
    • Verify that, upon change or dismissal of staff or administration, locks are changed or cylinders are rekeyed.
    • Don’t assume someone else has reported a door, window or lock that is broken or not working properly. Report these problems immediately.
  • Check the Lights
    • Your school should be protected with proper lighting.
    • Verify the use of motion sensitive, as well as constant, outside lights.
    • Illuminate dark places around the building—add lighting, cut back shrubs so light can penetrate, etc.
  • Check the Common Trouble Spots
    • Front office/reception area—The receptionist should be equipped with a panic button for emergencies, a camera with a monitor at another location and a high security lock on the front door that can be controlled.
    • Stairwells and out-of-the-way corridors—Talk to the school administration about improving poorly lighted corridors and stairways since these conditions often provide environments for violence to take place.
    • Restrooms—Make sure restrooms are not a haven for illegal or improper activities. Be sure that deadlocks are not accessible from the inside of the restroom.

Download our Facility Security Quick Checklist.

Information in this document was obtained from various sources. Please consult the National Crime Prevention Council at for additional information on CPTED.

Please call us at 800-463-8546 to discuss this or any other risk management safety tip, or visit our web site at to learn more about JCC risk management issues.


Submit a comment