School Design
11:53 am
Fri December 21, 2012

School Safety In The Age Of Gun Violence

It's counterintuitive, but transparency is the key to safety, says Architect Kevin Flanagan.
Credit NAC Architecture

Designing safer schools doesn't mean turning them into military bunkers. That might have been an easy remodel back when schools were built like jails, filled with "cells" and controlled by bells. Today's schools are open, flexible spaces that allow students to combine and recombine into groups that learn from each other as much as they learn from the teacher.

Perhaps it's counterintuitive, but school architect Kevin Flanagan says this openness doesn't make schools more vulnerable to gun attacks. He says safer schools are more open, more transparent. The more immediate danger schools face is unauthorized parents kidnapping their own kids. And he says the safety considerations that make kids safer from that danger would help reduce school shootings, too.

Kevin's tips for making schools safer include:

  • Minimize entrances so that visitors must check in at front office.
  • Make halls and entrances visible from the front office using lots of glass. Glass can be laminated, which slows offenders down. The key is visibility: People should not be able to walk around the school unnoticed.
  • Make electronic door locks controllable from the office.
  • Install an intercom system for communicating with classrooms.
  • Install blinds on exterior windows.

Kevin Flanagan is an architect with NAC Architecture in Seattle and has designed many schools throughout Washington state. He speaks with KUOW's David Hyde.

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