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SSN Interview with HCA Executive Director Russell Marino

SSN Interview with HCA Executive Director Russell Marino

SSN Interview with Executive Director Russell Marino

BATON ROUGE, La. – Last year Security Systems News reported on the installation of Athena Security’s weapon detection system at Hosanna Christian Academy. We sat down with school Executive Director Russell Marino to discuss how it’s been going.

This interview has been edited for length.

SSN: Could you tell me a little bit more about yourself and the Academy?

Marino: Coming out of LSU as a college graduate, I went into the Air Force and served as a pilot. I rose to the rank of captain on active and reserve forces back in the 1970s and 80s. I went into the business world after that into different industries: financial services, printing and mailing fundraising software, real estate and then into education. I’m married with three children, nine grandchildren, and a great grandson. I have been serving as the executive director here at Hosanna Christian Academy in Baton Rouge for the past nine years. Prior to that, I was the Chief Operations Officer. I am also an ordained minister here at Hosanna First Assembly, the Church of which the school is of ministry to our city here.

SSN: Could you tell me what led you to improve your security features at the school and why Athena Security?

Marino: Safety has always been preeminent in most of the industries that I've been in, especially the military. So, when I came to the school, I was very aware of what I considered to be a lack of safety overall in the campus especially. On the national scene school shootings and church shootings seem to be something that was getting a good bit of attention unfortunately, just due to the frequency of it. So, I began the process of securing our campus as best I could to minimize risk, which is all anyone can do. You can eliminate them (risks), of course, but let's just say the more spread out your campus is, the more challenging it is to make it something you can secure and yet keep it operationally functional so that parents and others that needed to interface with it would not be inconvenienced.

(Marino goes on to describe work done to the campus to secure the premises including the installation of multiple security cameras, magnetic locks, a security team of administrators with concealed carry permits, and fencing the school in to permit better access control.)

Marino: So, with all that being done I looked elsewhere for (security enhancements) and I was on a national webinar where they talked about a recent school shooting, and they talked about how they were encouraging all sorts of safety to be considered by schools, and one of them was Athena. They didn't go into anything about it other than they said that Athena had a weapon detection system that they were marketing. I called the company and after looking at a short video of it online I started a dialogue about the possibility of their system being used in my front office, since we had a single point of entry. After a few weeks of communications and evaluating the cost versus the additional benefit of another layer of detection it (was installed) in the lobby where we have it. Everybody who comes into the front office has to go through it, and the detection system is there to notify the three, armed personnel. Our phones get an alert if our receptionist has any concerns over it, meaning that it's not someone she knows or feels like it's a threat, the alert will come out to us and we're all in different parts of the campus.

With Athena, it reminded me of detection systems in airports I had been through as well as government buildings I had visited where I just walked between these two towers. There was nothing, if you will, threatening about them. It did not cause me to have to take things out of my pockets. It did not cause me to have to really engage with the person that may be sitting there just monitoring it. I felt like, OK, I've seen this before, so many people have probably seen a similar type of detection system. So, the features of it, the cost of it, the ability to adjust the sensitivity of the detection system was very important (to us).

SSN: You mentioned how important your parents' feedback is to you (Marino stated that Hosanna Christian Academy has had zero complaints since the installation of the system). Did they have any sort of input on any of the security measures that were taken, or did you reach out to anyone?

Marino: I did not go out and ask about these steps because I felt like the media was doing that in all the broadcasts that were taking place for, let's just call it the thing that happened at Uvalde, which was an elementary school as well. We're a pre-K through 8th grade school now so some of the things they really brought out to the public in that process of talking about that tragedy, were things that we had already been doing. Before Athena was put in, but everything else we had already done, and so I felt good about the fact that we were proactive. I felt very bad for the people at that school and any of the other schools that had not been able to take more safety measures into account.

SSN: Will Hosanna be upgrading any other aspect of their security in the coming year?

Marino: Since we were able to get the system put in our front office, I knew that one of the things that needed to be enhanced was the fact that most schools do not have bulletproof glass on their windows and doors. If I was going to bring everybody into the front office after school started, I knew that our double glass doors right before the Athena system are very vulnerable. I mean, you could go in with a handgun or a rifle and shoot out the glass and walk on in through it. The whole thing is glass other than the frame, so we looked into what was out there in the market that was going to help to slow down a person because (we) couldn't afford to go put bulletproof glass into these double glass doors and they're not the only ones on campus. However, now that it's a single point of entry, I knew I had to slow people down there. So, 3M has a product which is meant to be put onto windows or doors and their videos which show the strength of it, you can't even tell it's on the on the glass. In testing it showed that a person with a gun could shoot twice into it, and it prevents the glass from shattering, it holds it in place. It gets splintered of course, but it doesn't just crumble. They can't get in, so they show the person literally beating on that compromised glass for a minute and a half. It gives plenty of time for one or all three of us (armed administrators) to get to the front.

In concluding the interview Marino asked security professionals marketing these products to schools to place themselves in a position as someone in charge of a facility that houses children, to be aware that they are soft targets and help others become aware of those risks, so that they can do the basics required to secure their campuses.

More information about Athena’s Weapon Detection System can be found at


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