Knoxville, Tenn. – Red Chair Architects, an award-winning planning and design firm, announced today its strategic partnership with federal security veteran and entrepreneur Randall E. McGinnis, to provide specialized security planning services for school systems across Tennessee and the Southeast.
Red Chair Architects will team with McGinnis to provide vulnerability assessment, threat reduction, and design implementation and oversight services to mitigate threats specific to school facilities and in keeping with client school systems’ priorities, budgets and schedules.
McGinnis brings nearly four decades of experience in law enforcement and federal security services planning and strategy to the Red Chair team, providing client school systems an expansive knowledge base for understanding safety and security threats that can be mitigated with proper facility planning and personnel training.
McGinnis served as founder and CEO of Echota Technologies, Inc., for 16 years, in which he oversaw numerous multi-million-dollar federal contracts for operations and training programs for the U.S. Army’s Special Forces.
McGinnis’ firm also managed operations of the National Training Center for the Department of Energy in Albuquerque, NM, including anti-terrorism, force-on-force and advanced special weapons teams. Other areas of training the firm provided included counter-terrorism and electronic counter measures. In addition, Echota performed numerous vulnerability assessments for the Department of Energy in the United States and abroad.
Prior to founding Echota, McGinnis spent 18 years providing security under the Department of Energy, where his responsibilities included threat detection and deterrence, covering physical implementation of man power, electronic surveillance, as well as serving as a member of advanced tactical response teams.
McGinnis started his early career as a patrol officer and detective with a police department for five years.
“Post-Sandy Hook, the public outcry for better school security has been consistent in communities throughout the country, and Tennessee is no exception,” said Red Chair Architects CEO David Cockrill.
“In recent months since the tragedy at Newtown, the drumbeat for a serious focus on school security only seems to be intensifying, and the most effective way for systems to address security – one that actually has the potential to save lives in an emergency scenario – is to approach it holistically with facility planning, design and a seamless integration of known best-practices in threat detection, deterrence and response,” Cockrill said.
“It is also critical for local school administrations to achieve total integration of shared information and planning scenarios related to facility layouts with local law enforcement agencies – just one of many factors that our team can help school systems plan, implement and sustain over time.”
According to McGinnis, many school systems’ sole focus on hiring school resource officers represents a major expenditure with an inadequate level of proportional security value.
When it comes to providing a significantly enhanced security profile for a public school, “a school resource officer isn’t the answer,” McGinnis said.
“The only real answer: Buy time,” McGinnis said. “The majority of perpetrators of school-shooting events are insiders or former insiders to that school, meaning that they may have direct and informed access to the facility at any given time. If a perpetrator knows who the resource officer is and eliminates him or her as a first course of action – then what? Isolation and containment become the end-games of greatest importance – including mechanical restrictions of the facility that minimize damage and allow law enforcement the most time possible to arrive at the scene.”
“Time saves kids,” McGinnis said. “If you can isolate students through physical aspects of a building, away from a perpetrator for 30 minutes, there is a far greater opportunity to save lives. Many of a building’s typical physical security features only go so far. A perimeter fence, for example, buys you 22 seconds. School systems are going to have to examine their systems and facilities through a realistic lens of what they are providing in security value.”
According to Cockrill, the goal from a design and planning standpoint should focus on minimizing injury and loss of life by helping school systems identify beneficial actions by staff, achievable facility corrective measures as well as isolation and containment scenarios intended to buy precious time for emergency responders.
“Our strategic alliance offers specialized security planning services to school districts that can maximize the dollars allocated to address safety and security concerns,” Cockrill said. “Our collaboration has resulted in a solid methodology that provides strong, practical and consistent measures that fit each school system’s – and each school building’s – own unique needs,” Cockrill said.