3 Ways Turnstiles Can Reduce Active Shooter Risk (See in Action)

Guest Editorial by Mike McGovern, Regional Sales Manager, Automatic Systems

Active Shooter Incident Planning and Risk Abatement are among the most discussed topics lately in the news and in our security professional circles – largely due to the all-too-frequent deadly incidents in our lives and work as security professionals.

A properly designed and implemented entrance control system – usually involving some form of pedestrian entrance control such as optical turnstiles, mechanical turnstiles, or portals – can have a major role in the deterrence of such an occurrence.

It seems that at least once every month another shooting incident is being reported somewhere, in the USA, Canada, anywhere in the world.

No commercial, public, private, or government entity is immune from the threat, and we know that security leaders, government leaders, and others are continuously looking for ways to better prepare for the unthinkable event.

As security professionals, we know that much thought and preparation must go into both preventing and responding to these incidents in ways that reduce harm and save lives.

In his article “Active Shooters are Meticulous Planners  – Are You?”,  John P. Torres of Guidepost Solutions makes an excellent case supporting the need for thorough detailed planning for such incidents.

Meanwhile we at Automatic Systems have carefully studied the role that a properly planned and executed entrance control design/implementation strategy can play in helping to deter the possibility of such an incident.

We know that thorough and correct preparation for an active shooter incident can help in two ways:

  1. Deterring a would-be shooter, and

  2. Responding effectively, to minimize impact in case the unthinkable occurs under our watch

In this article we focus primarily on the deterrence rather than response, although there is an important role that an entrance control plays with regards to emergency egress – getting our folks out of a building smoothly and efficiently  in case of emergency.

According to the FBI, statistics show that most active shooter incidents happen at locations where there is minimal impediment to attack – where very little exists in the way of hardware or visible means of entrance control.

These soft targets have limited security measures to protect the public.

Evidence suggests that the largest proportion occur in workplaces where no visible entrance control system is in place.

With the rapid increase in active shooter incidents, security design professionals are exploring ways to provide safety while complying with the business mission.

Optical turnstiles with swinging glass or retracting glass barriers, mechanical turnstiles, and portals, offer an enhanced level of security against active shooter incidents, especially when combined with security doors, surveillance video, security officers and access control systems.

Optical turnstiles with barriers for example are a visual deterrent that can help prevent unauthorized, undetected entries to your facility.

Here are three benefits offered by the use of turnstiles and pedestrian entrance control to help deter against active shooter incidents:

Turnstile Benefit #1 – Visible Deterrence

Security professionals and others have known for some time that the harder it is for a crime to occur, the less likely it is to happen.

We all know the old trick of placing a “security system” sign on your lawn at home to deter intruders, right? Yes, that still works!

Well the same goes for entrance control systems implemented at your building and campus entrances.

Optical turnstiles with barriers for example are a visual deterrent that can help prevent unauthorized, undetected entries to your facility.

Turnstile barriers like swinging glass or retractable glass can inhibit unauthorized entry.

Anyone considering a crime or attack on a facility using a modern professionally designed entrance control system will more deterred than when compared with a facility which is not so-equipped.

Over 80 percent of active shootings occur at a workplace, according to the FBI’s first study of the subject.

The majority of the shooters in business environments were not employed at the shooting location. So, a strong visible deterrent can surely help discourage such an attack.

Piggyback detection, crossing (entering in opposite direction while an authorized user exits), and fraudulent misuse by an authorized user (collusion) are similarly detected and alerted for security staff.

Turnstile Benefit #2 – Tailgating/Piggyback Detection

Turnstiles – and pedestrian entrance control in general – are linked with your access control system and are designed to make sure that only authorized persons can enter a building or campus.

This inherent benefit is the primary reason turnstiles and other pedestrian entrance control (PEC’s) are employed.

A properly designed and implemented pedestrian entrance control system can sound an alarm, activate cameras and alert security staff in the event of a tailgating/piggybacking/crossing event.

Tailgating is defined as an unauthorized person attempting entry behind/with an authorized individual.

Piggyback detection, crossing (entering in opposite direction while an authorized user exits), and fraudulent misuse by an authorized user (collusion) are similarly detected and alerted for security staff.

IP Connected (network ready) PEC systems provide even further communication through the client’s security network if so integrated.

All of these features make it significantly more difficult for an active shooter to gain entry into the secure areas of your facility.

(SmartLane Security Entrance Lanes are ideal for applications requiring secure, bidirectional passage control; where safety and throughput are key. Courtesy of Automatic Systems and YouTube)

Turnstile Benefit #3 – The Intangibles – Evidence of Sophisticated Security Measures

The use of strong effective entrance control security at outside lobbies and other entrances goes even a step further than the most visible benefits discussed above.

We believe that the less tangible benefit is equally as important: the overall secure culture of a building/campus that is communicated/suggested by these turnstiles and portals.

A perpetrator will witness the obvious measures that have been implemented at the entrances and can surmise that equally sophisticated and sturdy measures have been employed throughout the facility to protect the occupants.

The Guidepost Solutions paper referenced above, states that “A common theme among active shooters is often the meticulous effort they go through to plan their actions in the hope of achieving the greatest extent of destruction and mayhem.”

Therefore we know that the perpetrator will certainly visit and analyze his targets very carefully. Sites that have the appearance of a strong security plan & mindset will be less vulnerable to attack.

Conclusion and Thinking Ahead

Once considering the three main ways that turnstiles will help to reduce the threat of an active shooter incident we feel confident that you will want to include consideration of such technology in your security design strategy.

Former NYPD Chief Raymond Kelly recommended in his detailed 2012 Active Shooter Risk Mitigation Report, implementation  of “credential-based access control systems that provide accurate attendance reporting, limit unauthorized entry, and do not impede emergency egress.”

This is still very timely advice.

We know that Optical Turnstiles when correctly designed and engineered will do just that.

Manufacturers such as Automatic Systems can aid with product selection, custom design, and procurement of turnstiles and related PEC equipment.

IP Ready products provide future-proof solutions and independent certifications such as UL325 & 2593 assure properly designed/engineered systems for safety and security, as you consider the best entrance control component of your active shooter risk mitigation strategy.

About Mike McGovern, Regional Sales Manager, Automatic Systems

Mike McGovern, Regional Sales Manager, Automatic Systems
Mike McGovern

Mike McGovern is a 20+  year security industry veteran who has helped design entrance control projects for some of North America’s most secure and prestigious campuses and landmark properties, consulting with government and commercial decision makers at all levels. 

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