Building Security

Preventing “road rage” in your parking lot

It was an unusually busy day at a crowded New Jersey mall when a woman spotted an open parking space after circling the lot for the better part of a half-hour. As she stepped out of her car, another woman assaulted her, accusing the first woman of stealing her space. In the ensuing melee, the second woman nearly bit through the first woman’s finger.

We may chuckle at outrageous stories like this and laugh at social media videos that capture what happens when parking lot disputes escalate into battles. But is it funny when those things take place in one of your parking lots?

Have you ever stood near the exit of a church parking lot as a packed Sunday service lets out? The attendees may have been bathed with goodwill minutes earlier, but in the scramble to get to lunch, soccer practice, or in front of the TV before kickoff, they transform into combatants in a winner-takes-all contest to be the first out of the lot. The same people who were wishing each other peace moments ago snarl, snap, and yell.

 The same thing happens in workplaces when everyone leaves, and in the parent pick-up lanes at schools. Beyond the impact of escalating tempers, there’s also the potential for vehicle accidents, damage to the lot itself, and worst of all, pedestrians who are injured when they go unnoticed by drivers focused on making an escape. It’s also a problem when everyone competes for prime parking spaces at the start of the day or at crowded events.

 Psychologists who have studied parking lot road rage liken it to territorial disputes that are compounded by the anonymity many people feel while they’re behind the wheel. They’re centered on achieving an objective -- whether that’s finding a space or getting out quickly -- and when another driver interferes or delays them, they respond as though they’ve been threatened. If they misbehave, nobody will hold them accountable.

 Studies suggest those territorial disputes result in power struggles. Ever feel pressured to get out of a parking space so an impatient driver can move in? Penn State researchers discovered that when someone else was waiting for their space, drivers actually took more time to leave the space -- eleven seconds more, on average. And if the impatient driver honked? The departing drivers took even longer to leave. It’s a kind of “I’ll show you” mentality that often leads to yelling, obscene gestures, scratched paint and other vandalism, and the occasional bitten finger.

 Fortunately, there are steps you can take to reduce the level of anger in your parking lots. It begins with how your lot is designed and marked. Creating clear paths for entering, exiting, and moving around the lot can help. Placing highly visible signs, such as Stop, Yield, and One Way signs, can minimize the potential for simple misunderstandings that all too easily escalate into pitched battles. If your facility is located on a busy street and drivers waiting to make left turns create delays, you may even want to reconfigure the exits so drivers can only turn right.

 It’s also important to protect pedestrian traffic in your lot, because the more vehicles and pedestrians interact, the greater the potential for injury. Clearly marked walkways and crossways with signage giving pedestrians the right of way can help, as can strategically placed refuge areas or islands where pedestrians can wait safely for a break in the traffic flow.

 You can also designate employees or volunteers to stand in key locations and direct traffic to ensure everyone has a fair shot at heading out as quickly as reasonably possible. Be sure to give them reflective safety vests, and encourage them to smile and be friendly, because their attitude can create an example for the drivers and defuse short tempers caused by impatience. A little bit of extra attention to your parking lots can go a long way to ensuring the safety of those who visit your facilities … and might just make them be a little nicer to one another.

Metal Detectors Aren't a Magical Safety Solution

There are no two ways about it: school shootings are terrifying. Students, parents, teachers, and communities are horrified by the thought of someone violating what we’ve always thought of as one of our safest spaces by firing a weapon with the intent to kill.

Criminologists point to statistics confirming that the number of such shootings really isn’t on the rise, noting that schools continue to be among the safest places for young people. Still, given the explosion of media and social media coverage, the average person can’t be faulted for thinking America faces some kind of violent new epidemic.

After this spring’s highly publicized incidents in Parkland, Florida and Santa Fe, Texas, and another in Noblesville, Indiana -- not far from our company’s offices -- there’s been an outcry calling for “hardening” school buildings to thwart potential shooters. In particular, many well-meaning people have insisted that the best solution is to place metal detectors at the doors of all schools. Indiana’s Governor recently made hand-held metal detectors available to all of the state’s schools at no cost to the districts.

Metal detectors have their place in security, but they’re not the foolproof or magical solution many advocates believe them to be. First, metal detectors are personnel-intensive devices. To provide adequate protection, they have to be staffed any time anyone enters the building. That not only includes the times when large groups of students are arriving for school, but throughout the day, and for high schools, into the evening and weekends.

If the swim team arrives for practice at 5:30 a.m., somebody has to be there to scan the members and their gym bags. If practice for the spring musical runs all evening, someone has to be there to scan all the participants. The same goes for sporting events. If there’s any gap in scanning, it creates an opportunity for someone to smuggle a weapon into the building and place it in a locker or other location for later access.

Not only do trained people have to be on hand to perform the scans, there has to be an established process when the detector identifies a suspicious person or object. Who will be responsible for frisking students or searching their bags? Will that interfere with the flow of students coming into the school?

Nor are all weapons made of metal. Even with every door protected by a metal detector, students could bring weapons made of wood, plastic, or other materials without detection. That creates a false sense of security.

Finally, if metal detectors placed at building entrances create a crowd of students who are waiting outside to get into the building to be scanned, that crowd becomes what’s known as a “soft” target. It would be easy for someone on the school grounds or in a nearby vehicle to open fire into that crowd with a weapon and inflict mass casualties. That individual wouldn’t even need a gun -- choosing instead to mimic the actions of terrorists in Europe and elsewhere who have simply driven vehicles into crowds.

It isn’t that metal detectors are inherently bad. But they’re not a panacea that will eliminate school shootings. Parents and others want a simple, easy-to-implement strategy to secure their children’s schools, and such an option just doesn’t exist. If it did, law enforcement officials would be leading the movement to use it. The fact that you don’t see police departments and law enforcement experts pushing for simple solutions like metal detectors is that they know better.

Effective school security encompasses several components, many of which can’t be purchased from suppliers. One of the most important is awareness of the hazards and having systems for alerting the authorities to potential threats. In nearly every major school shooting, we’ve later learned that the shooter had made threats or shared plans in advance, yet that information was never passed along to those responsible for security. Schools need a means through which people can safely report concerns about individuals.

In addition, it’s important to address visitor access. In the Parkland incident, the shooter was a former student who had no reason to be in the school, yet he easily gained access to commit his violent act. Would the outcome have been different if he had to obtain access to the building through the office and obtain a pass? Any answer is just speculation, but it’s worth thinking about.

Students and teachers need to be protected, but demanding simple solutions isn’t going to provide safety for everyone. The real answer is replacing rhetoric and social media chatter with thoughtful planning by professionals.

Learn more about school safety best practices.  Contact us.

Making Sure Your Building is Safe No Matter Who is There

When we think about safety, we tend to only think about people that come into our schools on a regular basis. This includes parents, bus drivers, teachers, or janitors. We get their backgrounds checked on a regular basis; however, we don’t always think about other people that may periodically enter our buildings . Why don’t we always think about the HVAC workers? Or the vending machine suppliers? Or even the cafeteria food delivery truck driver? All of these people could have interaction with or access to children, so why don’t we think to make sure that they are who they say they are, and that they can be trusted inside our schools?

With SafeVendor, this problem can easily be fixed. SafeVendor is a part of SafeVisitor Solutions that allows vendors to enter any facility using the SafeVisitor system and manages all of the re-certification background checks. This means that each vendor will only need one background check, and it will work in any school or building that is protected by SafeVisitor Solutions. This can save organizations significant money because instead of having to conduct background checks on their vendors or construction workers multiple times a year and for different projects, they can conduct one comprehensive background check annually.

Why not use SafeVendor for all of those vendor visitors and increase your safety at a  reasonable price? Take a look at for more information about SafeVisitor and SafeVendor!