Wednesday, July 27, 2005

ID that Backpack or Book Bag for Safety!

It was barely a week after 9/11 and clearly the need for more enlightened security measures had not sunk in with some. I had just approached the front door of a north Texas school for a meeting with the Superintendent as I noticed a dark blue unattended backpack just outside the front door of the school. When I reached the administrative office I notified the Superintendent of the article. He was aware of the backpack and had already placed a call to the local police. In fact, he had been watching the blue bag from his office window. Great, I thought. It was a heads-up decision to call the police as, given the recent terror attack in New Your City, an unattended backpack fell well within my definition of a suspicious package. About 20 minutes later the local police arrived and it was just at that point that I realized just how much work we had ahead of us. The officer walked up to the backpack, picked it up summarily, and proceeded to walk into the school with it in his hand. For a moment, I thought the Superintendent was headed for the small space beneath his desk. I believe he hesitated only because he saw me eyeing up the same space.

Today, particularly with the recent London events, police, school administrators, and others recognize that an unattended backpack warrants close scrutiny. Yet, students will leave these items on busses, in halls, and other places unintentionally. Tagging all backpacks, knapsacks, and book bags with a standardized ID tag may help school officials and police to determine which unattended items should be considered suspicious, and the way by which such items should be handled. With the student’s name clearly visible on the item, authorities can determine which items belong in the facility and which items are foreign to the campus. Giving each campus within the district its own color ID tag may further assist in identifying the origin of unattended items.

Some schools have banned backpacks and knapsacks for security reasons. But most schools have continued to allow such items. For those schools that allow these items, ID tags may be the answer to enhanced security. ID tags need not be sophisticated to be effective, but they ought to be durable. Most companies that produce promotional items have a variety of ID/Luggage tags that can be customized. The use of the tags should be required, not optional. After a reasonable grace period, bags that are not tagged should not be allowed into the building.

The tagging of bags will also serve to enhance awareness over the importance of identifying and reporting suspicious packages. In fact, the procedure, in conjunction with tighter building access control, would be an appropriate kick-off to any campus security awareness program.


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