Article discussing the use of security metal detectors in schools and public places.

By Daniel Bernzweig

School shootings have shaken our country in recent years. Sandy Hook, Arapahoe High School, Virginia Tech and Columbine are horrific examples of tragedies involving weapon-toting perpetrators. The armed offenders were either students at the school or visitors who forced entry into the building. Increased mass violence is shocking and unsettling—robbing U.S. families, as well as the general public, of peace of mind. We’ve gained negative press worldwide due to media coverage from these events. Everyone from educators and administrators to criminologists and psychiatrists are trying to determine the root cause of escalating mass violence in the U.S. Criminal profilers cite theories for motives including bullying, mental illness, media hype, the desire for power, abuse in the home and lack of spiritual upbringing. Regardless of the cause, the need for security detection devices in schools and public places is becoming evident!

Benefits of Security Metal Detectors in Schools

The most obvious benefit of placing metal detectors at school entrances is the immediate detection of weapons on students and visitors as they enter the building. Case in point: in schools currently using detectors, students and guests have been stopped with guns, knives and other weapons. Detection of a weapon on a student or guest is a proactive step that public facilities can take to prevent a tragic incident from happening. Furthermore, an investigation may lead to an arrest or treatment to prevent future occurrences.

A research article published three years ago, “Impacts of Metal Detector Use in School”, studies methods of reducing young people’s risk of victimization when they are in school. As a result of this epidemic, a growing number of school districts are installing metal detectors. Researchers studied the impact of metal detectors on school violence as well as perceptions about school safety. Among the findings: students at schools with metal detector programs were less likely to carry weapons in school. Also, the “school safety climate” increased at many schools, which is the perceived level of security by students.

Why don’t all Schools and Public Places Employ Metal Detectors?

If there is any debate about whether school entrances, movie theaters and high-traffic venues should be equipped with metal detectors, it focuses on the cultural stigma associated with acknowledging crime. Some people polled about being searched at places like movie theaters, recreational centers, museums, libraries and hospitals feel that it is a violation of their personal space. Others with a concealed weapons permit say they should be allowed to provide their own protection. Some states that ban everyone from carrying firearms are being required to install metal detectors in government buildings for public safety. A school’s image is the main reason parents and administrators cite as the “con” to having metal detectors. Many parents feel that schools utilizing metal detectors send out mixed signals about safety. Is it a violent school with a bad reputation or is safety really the issue? Another point administrators bring up is that metal detection devices can be cost prohibitive—not the units themselves, but training personnel how to use and maintain them. It seems like this debate has now become a moot point. With the escalation of tragic incidents at schools, movie theaters and populated events like the Boston Marathon and the Olympics, protecting people from weapons is simply pragmatic. The need to disarm a perpetrator trumps any possible negative perception about scanning and searching individuals. Airports have unequivocally adopted this safety mentality.

Best Security Metal Detectors for Schools, Public Buildings and Corporate Buildings

There are different types of security metal detectors, so it’s important to consider the benefits and features of each when deciding which type to employ at your facility. For high-volume applications (such as students, staff and guests entering a school or many employees entering a workplace), a walk-through metal detector may be the best choice. Walk-through detectors can handle high capacity—ensuring that all individuals entering and/or leaving the building are scanned. They provide superior metal discrimination and detection. Most walk-through security detectors automatically eliminate electrical interference so that school or office video monitors and don’t set off false alarms.

Depending on the needs and budget of each building, walk-through detectors are available in single zone detection and multi zone detection. Single zone detection may be sufficient as it will immediately locate a target—thus serving as a general screening device. Once the unit alerts that a metal object has been identified, a metal detector wand is needed to precisely pinpoint it. Multi zone walk through detectors will actually identify whether the target is on the left or right side. Higher end multi zone detectors can zero in on where a potential weapon is concealed on an individual anywhere from head to toe. This can prove to be a time-saving measure when high volumes of people are being scanned.

Portable walk-through metal detectors, like the Fisher M-Scope, are a modern option—allowing the operator to easily transport the unit and set it up in minutes. This makes for extreme versatility. One person can move it to a location and configure the unit on demand. The portable walk-through detector would be ideal for outdoor venues such as the Olympics and marathons; nightclubs, annual or off-site corporate events. For further information about the benefits of walk-through metal detectors, check out Understanding and Selecting Walk Through Security Metal Detectors.

Single Zone Walk-through Metal Detectors: Multi Zone Walk-through Metal Detectors:

Again, once a metal target has been signaled by a walk-through metal detector, a hand-held scanning detector is needed to pinpoint the offending object. Security wand metal detectors serve this purpose. For lower traffic entrances or buildings that don’t wish to configure a walk-through metal detector, hand-held security wands are an extremely popular choice.

The most common type of security wand is a long paddle-shaped unit. You have probably seen these at sporting events, concerts and some courthouses. They are very efficient at detecting metal objects and are built to withstand continuous use. For low-volume applications, a security wand may be all you need. Security guards and law enforcement may prefer a smaller unit that is more discreet. For this purpose, Garrett’s THD security wand is about as long as a pen—it detects both iron and stainless steel weapons, and other metallic objects with a fast response time. Hand-held security wands are available with audio, visual and vibration alerts. For more detailed information about the benefits of specific alert systems and uses for security wants, read What are the Best Security Wand Metal Detectors?

Security Wand Metal Detectors:

For questions about how to select the best security metal detection device for your purposes, please contact us at We are here to help!

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