By Saj Sri-Kumar
It’s 3 p.m. on a Monday, and streams of students and teachers head through the main driveway on their way home. Security Guard Mark Geiger looks on, knowing that he will not be going home any time soon.
Geiger does not leave campus between Sunday evening and Friday night, and occasionally stays into Saturday. He serves during the school day and from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. each weeknight.
At night, he patrols the campus and investigates the alarms that occasionally go off in some of the school’s buildings. They are mostly false alarms, but Geiger has run into thieves before.
A former officer with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, Geiger discovered a pair of thieves attempting to steal sound and light equipment from Rugby Theatre. Two years ago the thieves fled with eight wireless microphone body packs, valued at around $1,000-$1,500 each, but Geiger prevented them from making off with all the equipment they had piled up. Since, the school has constructed additional fences to make it tougher to get on to campus unseen, and Geiger said theft has diminished.
Despite long hours and staying on campus for nearly five straight days at a time, Geiger said he still manages to get some sleep.
For the first few years, Geiger slept in the front seat of his car. Since then, however, he has found better accommodations on campus that he declined to reveal. However, in recent months, he has found it tougher to find time to sleep.
“There’s less sleep now,” he said. “There are more hours in the day because of construction.”
Still, Geiger doesn’t complain about the lack of sleep.
“I can sleep when I die,” he said. “I’m tired of everyone telling me that I need to get more sleep. They tell me that I’m going to die young. Well, I’ve already lived through young.”
One of the biggest downsides to working the nightshift is that he is away from his family for the whole week.
Geiger’s wife, a hospital worker, is “very understanding,” he said, although there are some times when she wishes he could stay home.
Night duty is only one of Geiger’s roles as a security guard.
During the day, he is the first face many people see when they arrive on campus. He, along with the other guards, directs cars in the school’s parking lots and making sure visitors know where to go.
Geiger finds his work with the Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter and Evacuate program most fulfilling. The program teaches students how to best defend themselves if a shooter arrives on campus, stressing active resistance to a shooter rather than passive submission.
Geiger initiated A.L.I.C.E. at Harvard-Westlake. He researched the program, which had been put in use elsewhere, and brought it to the attention of Head of Security Jim Crawford.
Crawford and Geiger subsequently took a course on the A.L.I.C.E. program, and they began to teach the program to students and teachers two years ago.
Geiger said he enjoys teaching the program because he believes it has the potential to help students later in life.
He poses as a shooter in drills where students practice defending themselves from a gunman on campus.
Beyond just preparation for incidents on campus, Geiger said he sees ALICE as a way to prepare students for the rest of their lives.
“If you go through life and face an incident and you assert yourself, then you’re using the principles of A.L.I.C.E.,” he said.
Geiger has suffered a broken finger, toe and rib all while engaging the students in the drills, but said he doesn’t mind what he called “minor injuries.”
“It’s worth the tradeoff,” he said. “If I can do something that will have a lasting impact on people and maybe help them later on, that’s what matters. It’s just part of the job.”
Compared to his former job as a sheriff’s deputy, Geiger said he enjoys that his current job doesn’t require him to investigate cases such as homicides, plane crashes and child molestation.
“You guys are the second happiest place on earth,” he said.
The one happier place? “Disneyworld,” he said with a grin. “I dig that place.”