SAFER SCHOOLS NEWS-VOL. 77
How did Terrorists Attack the
School at Beslan, Russia?
The car slowly circled through the housing area that surrounded the elementary school. Eventually, the last bell of the day sounded and the parking lot filled with students, staff and parents. The man in the car pulled into the lot and parked at the first available spot.
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As he entered the school through one of the side exits, he smiled at the kids and adults that were hurrying out to go home. The man was well dressed and appeared to be a parent or grandparent, probably there to pick up his student. He nodded a greeting to several teachers as he moved down the hall. One teacher asked if needed directions. The man replied, “Yes. Where is the cafeteria?” The teacher gave directions quickly and returned to getting her students out to the parking lot. The cafeteria was deserted. The food service workers had been off shift for an hour already. No one saw the man place a package close to the serving line. Nor, did anyone take note as he exited the building and drove away.
Late that night, another person arrived at the same school. The community around the school was asleep. Street lights made it easy for the stranger, perhaps a woman, to walk around the building without stumbling. She checked each door and ground floor window. A side door was locked and shut but the latch had not fully engaged. She knew there would be one door left open; there always is. She quickly opened the door and stepped inside. No alarm. The building was hers. Few of the interior locks were set. She made several trips from her vehicle to different rooms in the school. Each time bringing in a package and placing it out of sight.
No one had any idea the school had been violated until the attack.
The account above could be an explanation of how the terrorists took down the school in Beslan, Russia on September 1, 2004. On September 3, the siege came to an abrupt, deadly end amid explosions and much shooting. As the smoke lifted and order was restored, 336 people were dead with about half of them being children. The roof collapsed and buried many under tons of rubble. Fire and explosions left 107 bodies that could not be identified. Former hostages have told authorities that the terrorists had weapons and explosives that had been hidden in the school before the siege that they used to make this attack so devastating. Many are now asking the question, “How were they able to get into the school to stockpile weapons?”
The account above is actually a description of a portion of a Facility Site Safety Survey conducted by Keys to Safer Schools.com. Without specialized burglary tools or any unusual abilities, Keys staff members routinely are able to enter school buildings without anyone noticing or raising an alarm. The standard scenario is to place an object that is not a part of that school in a common use area where it could have a broad effect on students and staff—if it were a terrorist device. Some of the schools had electronic monitoring but most did not. Only once has a staff member been “caught” by law enforcement and this was intentional to observe the response time and procedure. Some schools have been large with a full time police force presence. Others have been small with a modest police force for the entire community. All had vulnerabilities that those who worked there every day never noticed.
- Is there any difference between the school in Beslan and your school? No!
- Is there any difference between the schools that Keys’ has been contracted to test and your school? Again, the answer is - No!
Unless, you have had a team of experts from outside your school survey and test your deterrent system, your school probably is as vulnerable to attack as Beslan or any other school.
- Can a school do anything to protect itself? Learn how to identify an Unsafe School
- Unfortunately, many in high places are saying, “No.” However, the truth is that much can be done to protect your school from a potential, even though unlikely, terrorist attack.
Metal detectors, motion sensors and security cameras are good ideas, but costly and technical. Emergency Response/Crisis Training is the most efficient means of prevention available to today. Israel is often in the news with terrorist attacks, but their intelligence community credits the average citizen with thwarting as much as 80% of planned attacks through their level of awareness. The same will work in any environment.
With proper and repeated training, the scenario above would be very different. No one would be allowed to enter an exit. Every staff member would challenge anyone without a visible “Visitor Badge.” Every door and window would be checked daily by a specified person. All staff, including bus drivers and custodians, would be trained to visually scan their assigned areas at the beginning of each day, looking for anything out of place.
If the events of 9/11 and now 9/01 have caused you to question the level of preparedness at your school, contact Keys to Safer Schools.com today for assistance.
Programs to Combat Violence
- Emergency Response & Crisis Management Training Model
- See the Lock Out Violence Everyday Campaign - A community violence prevention program.
- See FACILITY SAFETY SITE ASSESSMENT