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Keeping kids safe in the car and at school

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Recently, I received the following e-mail from one of our long-term readers named Mark M.

“I have young children and often have to load them into our vehicles car seats, at grocery stores, shopping centers and vulnerable areas. Keeping vigilant, I always keep my situational awareness heightened, but what if any suggestions do you have for these type scenarios. My fear is always once I have her clicked in and then the small amount of time I walk around the car someone could try and harm her, me or steal the car with her in it. I carry concealed, train regularly, have an appropriate holster and accept the risks.”

“My daughter is also started attending a private Montessori school to which is as secure as a wet cardboard box. They have asked me for suggestions on better securing the campus. I am wondering who or how to help them or what direction to steer them in.”

Hammer Montessori Magnet School by Christian Bateman | Creative Commons 3

Beginning with the first question, as Mark mentioned, when putting your children into your car you are extremely vulnerable. Not only are you distracted by buckling in your kids but you also typically have your back towards other cars and people. Of course, having situational awareness is the key to staying safe and in a scenario like this. I recommend always having your head on a swivel. What I mean is, when putting your kids in the car, or even just loading groceries you should constantly be looking around you. You should look up every 5-10 seconds and make sure nobody is approaching you from behind.

In addition, since you are more vulnerable when putting kids into a car you need to be careful of people looking to commit a crime of opportunity. In other words, criminals will hang out at shopping centers and wait for someone they believe they can take advantage of. For example, while you are putting your kids in the car a criminal might try to distract you while one of their cohorts steal items from your car or even try to steal your car. Another common ploy is criminals might try to distract you by pretending to have car trouble or asking you for help with something. Again, this is simply a ruse to distract you while they steal from you.

So what do I do when I’m loading my kids into the car? Well, in addition to my situational awareness I always make sure my vehicle is secure while loading my kids into their seats. I will keep all the doors locked on my vehicle except for the door where I’m putting the kids into their seats. Now, if you’re the type of person who starts the car and then loads the kids into their seats I highly recommend against this. Also, once you get to your car and before you start loading kids, make sure and do a full 360 scan around you in case someone has tried to follow you to your car.

As for security at your daughter’s private school, this is absolutely something you should take seriously because schools can easily be the scene of domestic disputes, custody issues, or other family drama. The first thing I would recommend for the school is to make sure they have some sort of “gatekeeper” for everyone who enters the school. This could be a secretary whose office or desk is at the entrance of the school and they check-in and checkout all visitors.

Next, I would encourage the school to make sure that all classrooms have a way to communicate with the main office. Obviously, most teachers have cell phones but I would consider an intercom system or even walkie-talkies so that all classrooms can communicate with each other and the main office in the event of an emergency.

Lastly, I would recommend the school have a map of the entire school and classrooms at the main entrance office. I would have multiple copies of the school map so that in the event of a dangerous situation the school could provide law enforcement with detailed layouts of the school as soon as the first responders arrive.

Of course, all schools should have some sort of security system including cameras that cover every part of the school as well as the exterior. The school should be vigilant in monitoring who enters and exits the school especially if they are leaving with a child.

I realize a lot of the information above is common sense but when I visit schools, I am amazed at how little security they have and how anyone can just walk in the front door and they’re never checked. This is why at a minimum they need someone at the one and only entrance that has unlocked doors so every visitor can be verified.

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