Back to Basics, Facility Security

Back to Basics: 7 Security Professional Considerations for Metal Detectors

Back to Basics is an article series highlighting important, but possibly overlooked, information that security professionals should know.

The increase in violence in schools, retail stores, shopping malls, and churches has brought metal detectors, which produce a sound if they detect metals, like a concealed weapon such as a gun or knife, on someone’s body, to center stage in a lot of venues.  

Security professionals thinking of upgrading or installing metal detectors should be knowledgeable about the different aspects of this undertaking, including the type of venue in which the metal detectors will be used, signage, amnesty bins, the security guards who monitor them, and walk-through metal detector units, as well as forms, envelopes, small plastic bags, and twist ties.

Metal detectors were discussed during the “Review of Untapped Innovative Opportunities and Possibilities Around Healthcare Physical Security” session at the International Association for Healthcare Security and Safety (IAHSS) 54th Annual Conference and Exhibition, which was recently held in Reno, Nevada. The slideshow for this presentation is available here.

Katarina Kemper, a healthcare public safety and security consultant, explained there are seven things security professionals in all types of venues should consider:

1. Type of Venue

The number of public venues that use metal detectors has increased over time. Each venue has different needs based on how often it’s open and how many entrances it has. Such venues include:

  • Airports
  • Hospitals and medical facilities
  • Ships and cruise lines
  • Sports arenas
  • Large concert venues
  • Schools
  • Amusement parks
  • Courthouses
  • City, state, and federal buildings

2. Security Signage

Appropriate signage, such as a sign stating “Notice: All visitors and employees subject to metal detector screening,” for example, should be installed next to metal detectors.

This could also include:

  • State or federal regulations
  • Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) access
  • The facility’s weapons policy

The departments involved in the process of signage installation should include the company’s ethics department, risk management department, facilities management department, and security professionals.

3. Amnesty Bins

Visitors who come into a building and accidentally bring in contraband can place it in sealed amnesty bins if they are provided. This prevents visitors from having to bring these items back to their vehicles and prevents staff from having to fill out chain-of-custody paperwork, which would temporarily transfer ownership of the contraband to the facility’s security department. The amnesty bins must be under the watch of security professionals, who should work with risk management regarding the placement of these bins.

4. Security Guards

It is necessary to have security guards next to metal detectors to ensure all visitors walk through them and that prohibited items are placed in amnesty bins or brought back to vehicles. Senior leadership and security professionals need to help fill those positions, which could cost an organization a lot if 24/7 coverage is needed at multiple guarded metal detector locations. However, concert venues would not need personnel to be at the metal detector after concerts end, and large hospitals might have 5 to 10 entrances but only 1 entrance that’s open at night, so costs for these facilities would be less.

5. Walk-Through Metal Detector Units

Walk-through metal detector units are necessary to determine whether visitors, who will be asked to empty their pockets and place their items in plastic buckets, have anything with metal hidden from view. Security professionals and facilities management professionals need to work together to properly install these walk-through metal detector units. Moreover, policies and procedures need to be adapted, and training needs to be provided for whoever will be monitoring these devices. How many walk-through metal detector units would be needed to meet these facilities’ needs also needs to be established. Venues that have more than one metal detector at an entrance, like concert venues, and venues with multiple entrances would have to factor that into their projected costs.

6. Forms, Envelopes, Small Plastic Bags, and Twist Ties

Forms, envelopes, small plastic bags, and twist ties should be available next to each metal detector unit, and risk management and security professionals should be involved in getting these items prepared. Policies and procedures also need to be established to determine what forms are necessary, what forms should be secured in envelopes, and what items should go into plastic bags, which should be twist-tied.

7. Weapons Safe and Cleaning a Gun Barrel

A weapons safe is needed if weapons are detained by security professionals and must be placed in secure locations. The barrels of weapons need to be cleaned of ammunition, as well. Additionally, policies and procedures need to be set up, individuals need to be properly trained, and a secure return process needs to be established so visitors can reunite with their weapons when they leave the facility.

Safety-First Mentality

Security professionals need to work with venues to establish a “safety first” mentality to provide the best access control possible. They should also ensure that all exit doors are secured and that occupants are aware that they should not be used for reentry under any circumstances. Furthermore, venues should inform visitors of policies in advance so they will not attempt to bring prohibited items into the facility—for example, a venue hosting a concert, a sports game, or another large-scale event advertising online that weapons are prohibited. Additionally, security professionals should always work with law enforcement to properly deal with any situation that might arise.

Facilities looking to install or upgrade their metal detectors should consider their venue type, security signage, amnesty bins, security guards, walk-through metal detector units, forms, envelopes, plastic bags, twist ties, a weapons safe, and cleaning a gun barrel.