Metal detection is a hot topic of debate among school, university and healthcare facility protection pros. Many want the weapons confiscation, deterrence and perception of safety that the deployment of metal detectors provides. That said, the costs, concerns about metal detectors sending the wrong message and human resources needed to operate these machines can pose challenges for some organizations.
The decision to adopt this type of weapons screening solution should be made on a case-by-case basis.
Should your campus determine that metal detection is right for you, be sure to adopt the following best practices provided by the experts Campus Safety has featured in our many articles throughout the years:
For K-12 schools, conduct searches randomly so students don’t know when they will be checked for weapons. Schools might consider randomly drawing classroom numbers and search every student in a selected classroom. For special events, try an alternating sequence of random selection.
For high-risk areas, deploy two checkpoints: The first checkpoint screens everyone and the second is a surprise check that could be random or involve everyone.
Develop a secondary screening procedure for individuals who set off the initial detector. Usually, the secondary screening procedure includes hand-held metal detectors.
Use hand-held metal detectors as primary screening for individuals with implants, prosthetic limbs, wheelchairs and walkers, or for guests who are unable or unwilling to walk through the walk-through metal detector.
Consider screening bags with an x-ray machine.
Deploy good access control throughout campus so a weapons violator can’t dodge an inspection point by going around the building and handing the weapons to someone through an open window or other door.
Deploy an armed officer to protect the security personnel operating the metal detection checkpoint.
Train officers, administrators, faculty and clinicians on how to detect a weapon with visual screening.
Place the detector in a location where it will operate properly and not experience interference from other equipment.
Be certain the detector is calibrated correctly, including every time a walkthrough detector is moved.
Identify the three or four threat objects most likely to be encountered and then have the metal detector vendor re-tune the walkthrough device’s sensitivity.
Determine which objects will be allowed inside the venue. Not all items that a detector finds are threats, such as pens, keys and coins. The portal’s sensitivity levels can be adjusted to accommodate these items.
The screening process should be fast. Be very mindful of throughput so that students, patients and visitors can get to their classes and appointments on time.
For athletic events, concerts or other events at large stadiums, consider adopting a clear bag policy. The bags should be limited in size, and larger purses, coolers, briefcases, backpacks, computer bags and luggage should be prohibited. Adoption of this policy should help speed up the screening process.
Consider providing an amnesty box so students, parents, patients and visitors can voluntarily dispose of illegal or prohibited items, such as illegal drugs and weapons. If adopting this approach, be sure to develop appropriate property management policies so that legal but prohibited items can be returned to their owners once they leave your facility.
Have officers frequently check the areas (such as bushes) where weapons can be hidden that are outside the checkpoint to see if weapons or other illegal items have been dumped.
Post signs explaining your weapons screening policy and what items are prohibited or illegal.
Provide security/police officers with adequate and appropriate training on how to use metal detectors, as well as the policies supporting your weapons screening program.