How safe are we?

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ASSISTANT COPY EDITOR KATIE DILLON and PHOTO EDITOR JESSICA HAGHANI sat down with Head of Security Barak Fave to find out how safe we really are at ASL and how incidents miles away affect the school.

Minutes after the helicopter crash in Vauxhall, on January 16, Head of Security Barak Fave received a call from the London Metropolitan Police Department about the incident. “Every day, every minute something can happen,” Fave said.

It is difficult for Fave to provide for long-term goals because specific events that affect security are always spontaneous. Events in different parts of the world are always relevant to the ASL security team, which is why Fave is constantly aware of the different threats and warnings around the globe. He and his team work closely with the U.S. Embassy and the London Metropolitan Police Department in order to stay up to date with possible threats to the school.

The warnings the team are notified about are very general, and can expand from local threats to specific threats to Europe, the U.K. and the western world. Worldwide events, such as the death of Osama Bin Laden and the U.S. presidential elections, call for an increase of security in and around the school. This increase in security includes additional patrols, both in uniform and undercover. However, increased security completely depends on the level of threat. “I’m meeting with people from the Embassy and the Metropolitan police and they advise me, but the decision isn’t up to them entirely,” Fave said. Fave works with the administration and the Crisis Management Team to make sure he has accurate information and different opinions.
Fave works with his team to teach and refresh the ways in which security is executed in relation to these events. Fave does not foresee a drastic episode happening and his team having to react, “but I want my team to be ready in case we have to,” he said.

After the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, Fave revised the current security procedure. “It is a tragic story, but also a lesson for us,” Fave said.

At the Sandy Hook Elementary School the classrooms were open, allowing the shooter to easily navigate through the school. One of the things the security team has been revising is the “shelter-in-place” technique, which is used for situations similar to the one that occurred at Sandy Hook. At ASL, using internal locks, staying low and quiet and moving out of the line of sight are all techniques used for the ‘shelter-in-place’ procedure. “We are currently working on ways to make [the procedure] more efficient, by creating more compartments, making it harder for [the shooter] to move from class to class,” Fave said.

Making classroom layouts more complicated to have more hidden spaces is one technique used to make an attack more difficult and is something Fave is working on to implement in the coming years.

Along with being prepared for a variety of situations, the security team is briefed on what they should be looking out for every day. Their job doesn’t only pertain to guarding the entrances and exits of the school from possible threats. Patrols walk around the perimeter of the playground to protect students against any unexpected happenings. “Students are exposed, and theoretically anyone could drive by with some kind of explosive or a gun. By implementing patrols, we are trying to prevent that as much as possible,” Fave said.

However, the security team’s job extends further than just protecting the school from external threats. “Dangerous neighborhood situations are prevented by education. The High School and seventh and eighth grade are now being taught how to be streetwise.” he said.

Yet even so, Fave believes there is a high level of complacency among students. “I watch [students] become more alert after one of the talks we have with a police officer, or after an incident occurs, but that only lasts a few days,” he said. Even basic, daily things like crossing the road can be fatal, and yet he witnesses hundreds of students coming close to having accidents as pedestrians. “This has nothing to do with terror or criminals, this is just personal safety,” Fave said.

While some aspects of the security team’s job may seem unexplained, in particular the insistence of using ID cards to enter and exit the school, there is important reasoning. Using ID cards is vital because, “If people are looking at us, and noticing we are letting you in without checking anything, they might think that everything is very lenient here, and that ASL is an open institution, which it is not,” Fave said.

The security team works hard to monitor the school, and a lot of the time what they do goes unnoticed. They are vigilant about keeping ASL safe, and work to protect the larger community as well. While at any second anything can happen, Fave keeps a close eye on his team to make sure they are up to date on situations around the world, and in London, so they can execute their job accurately and efficiently.

katie_dillon@asl.org
jessica_haghani@asl.org