Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Theory has five levels within its pyramid. Maslow used the terms “physiological,” “safety,” “love and belonging,” “esteem” and “self-actualization” to describe the pattern human motivations generally move through. The base of the pyramid (most basic needs) starts with physiological needs and work their way up the pyramid to self-actualization.

Physiological: Food, shelter, sleep

Safety: Security, health, employment

Love and Belonging: Love, family, friendships

Esteem: Achievement or education, confidence in a group, status

Self-Actualization: Achieving individual potential

In my opinion, the Owatonna Public School system runs the gamut of the pyramid. We want our kids to have a nutritious meal, feel safe, develop friendships, achieve and reach their individual potential. Our desire is they experience all of this within our school buildings.

The Owatonna Police Department and Owatonna Public Schools place a strong emphasis on safety and security. In 2013, the Owatonna Police Department partnered with the Owatonna Public Schools, the Minnesota Department of Education, Homeland Security and Emergency Management, Minnesota Department of Public Safety, the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF), Steele County Emergency Management, and other stakeholders to protect our children. This K-12 School Outreach Initiative produced some analysis and key findings.

Why is this important then and now? In November, our community gets an opportunity to build a 21st century learning environment with a focus on safety and security. The current high school was built to maximize openness and accommodate access by students, staff, contractors, vendors, and the community at large. This magnificent building was state of the art for its period. Today’s security deficiencies are not a reflection of yesteryear or any one person. The construction of school buildings, technology, engineering, materials, and equipment has evolved exponentially since its original construction. The development, structure, and functioning of human society demands we revisit and revise our planning and response to school safety.

A passage by the late John Wayne helps puts things into perspective for me.

Tomorrow is the most important thing in life.

Comes into us at midnight very clean.

It’s perfect when it arrives and it puts itself in our hands.

It hopes we’ve learned something from yesterday.

What have learned from yesterday? Using history as our guide, and employing 21st century strategic planning with cutting edge developments, it is will be important to consider the following potential security enhancements:

• Post trained staff equipped with communication capabilities at entry/exit points to monitor and control access by employees, students, visitors, contractors, and vendors.

• Construct limited entry points with electronic access control systems to control the flow of traffic within the high school to prevent unauthorized people from gaining access.

• Install effective locking mechanisms on doors to classrooms and similar areas.

• Harden exterior doors by replacing glass doors and components with stronger materials.

• Use intrusion detection systems and video surveillance systems equipped with real-time monitoring capabilities and comprehensive coverage of all school areas.

• Install perimeter fencing and gates to enhance perimeter security.

• Install barriers to mitigate the vulnerability of a high-speed avenue of approach for vehicles and to increase standoff distances from the facility or critical areas.

• Use state of the art construction materials to avoid weak wall construction at school facilities. The weakest wall construction materials is concrete masonry or brick.

• Install uniformed lighting with consideration given to the combination of type and coverage of the lighting. Backup power for all lighting.

• Design and construct controlled parking areas. Use video surveillance and security patrols to monitor parking or vehicle placement.

• Establish Threat Assessment Teams to identify, assess, and manage threats.

• Establish, update, and regularly exercise emergency response plans in conjunction with first responders.

Safety and security is paramount. We all want it for ourselves, and we want it for our current and future students, educators, and visitors who walk the halls of our new high school. In emergency management, we often speak of mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery. The new high school is an amazing opportunity to put mitigation and preparedness into the design and construction of a safe and secure 21st century learning environment. Let’s learn from yesterday and prepare for the future!

Keith Hiller is the chief of police for the Owatonna Police Department. He can be reached at 507-444-3800, via email at Keith.Hiller@ci.owatonna.mn.us or at the Law Enforcement Center, 204 E. Pearl St. in Owatonna.

Jeffrey Jackson is the managing editor of the Owatonna People's Press. He can be reached at 507-444-2371 or via email at jjackson@owatonna.com

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