Why Your Risk Management Plan Can’t Work in Silos
Siloed systems inhibit security solutions from performing effectively
- By Danielle Myers
- August 01, 2019
Imagine trying to watch TV with one
remote designated to powering it on,
another solely for adjusting volume,
another for changing the channel, and
so on. Individually, they’re all technically
useful and are necessary for watching
television, but their lack of unity and ease of
use would greatly decrease anyone’s experience
watching television—and maybe stop
them from watching television altogether.
This concept also applies to a schools’ risk
management plan. Many schools have implemented
security cameras, alarm systems, door
locks, and other safety and security technology,
but because they are siloed systems, they
don’t work efficiently or effectively towards
the main goal of keeping the school safe.
Be Proactive, Not Reactive
When it comes to risk management, there is
one major issue that is consistently seen
across the board in schools: reactivity. When
it comes to schools' risk management, many
implement safety technologies reactively,
rather than proactively. For example, if there
is an incident in which someone enters a
school unauthorized, after the incident, the
school’s reactionary response may be to
install security cameras. While it is an
understandable solution from the standpoint
of wanting more of a visual sense of
what is happening inside the building, it
leaves little to no action people can take to
control the situation—they can simply
watch it unfold.
In reality, once the cameras are installed,
more often than not, nothing further happens.
Although they took a great first step in
implementing a new technology system to
provide them with valuable information, that
information by itself isn’t helpful because it
typically doesn’t end up going anywhere.
The security cameras are only a superficial
fix to the original problem, rather than
being a functioning part of an entire risk
management plan. For instance, let’s look at
the situation one step further. After the
cameras are installed, what is the plan when
someone else attempts to enter the school?
This creates another level of accountability,
as someone must always be watching the
live video feed to wait for an incident to
occur (the only other option is to review the
recording after an incident has already
taken place, which by then is too late). Adding
the cameras only created another role
for someone to fill, and even if that role is
filled, that doesn’t mean they are actually
prepared to deal with another incident.
These reactionary responses may seem like a
solution, but they don’t actually contribute
to the overall risk management plan, and
rather lead to a dead end.
Let’s take a look at another potential scenario:
Say a security guard is hired or is given
the responsibility for watching the video feed
as outlined above, and he/she sees an unauthorized
user attempting to enter the building.
What is their next step? They can either
decide what to do on their own or leave the
camera feed to go tell someone what they’ve
seen. Neither option is sufficient. The security
guard will either have to leave the situation
unattended, or instead be forced to make an uninformed and potentially panicked
decision, without reference to any type
of plan. In reality, installing video cameras
was ineffective at preventing the incident
from happening again and inefficient at
managing it in real-time.
As part of the solution, it’s important that
schools and administrators take a look at the
big picture and focus on solutions that provide
the right people with the information
they need so they can make an informed
decision on the next best step without adding
additional steps or procedures. While the
scenario above paints a picture of a common
situation facing schools, it is one of many to
consider when thinking about risk management.
This scenario alone cannot inform
your decision, but rather serve as a starting
point for where to begin. When thinking
about what is right for each particular facility,
asking the right questions is essential. The
below are designed to help guide the conversation
and ensure your risk management
solution fits individualized needs.
- Once a new safety system is installed, how
are we prepared to utilize it and how will
we push that information out?
- What information do we want to be
- Who do we want to send it to and how do
we want them to receive it?
By answering questions like these, schools
and administrators can begin to form an outline
of an effective risk management plan
which pulls siloed safety measures together
and empowers the appropriate parties to take
well-informed action to either stop or prevent
these unwanted incidents from happening.
A New Type of Hall Monitor
Creating awareness about what’s happening,
where it’s happening, and what to do about it
saves lives and property. Such knowledge can
be difficult to attain when multiple alarm
systems are at play—each with its own notification
and reporting protocols. Unmonitored
systems generally only provide local
alerting in the form of buzzers, lights, or
annunciation panels. For example, a fire
alarm goes off when smoke is detected, but it
doesn’t tell you where the fire is or where to
find the nearest exits so the campus can be
There are many types of emergencies:
an overflowing toilet, a power outage, a tornado,
an armed intruder, etc. Regardless of
the emergency, the first few minutes are
critical to determining the outcomes. The
role of technology is to improve outcomes
for people and property, and that includes
preventing bad things from happening and
facilitating the appropriate response if an
emergency does occur. Reducing confusion,
panic, and communication breakdowns
prevents delayed responses that can equate
to costly mistakes.
The advantage is that today’s smarter networks
and devices, plus the right software to
tie all of them together, make it easier and
more cost-effective than ever to create a safety
bubble over a single building, wide-area
campus, or entire district. In addition to
developing emergency preparedness and
response plans, campuses can use software to
integrate all of their alarm systems and then
automate emergency notifications to send
real-time information to the appropriate
first-responders. That way, when a smoke
alarm does go off, people can be alerted to
where, why, and what to do about it, rather
than just know an alarm has been triggered
and that they need to leave the building.
Identify Your Existing Technologies
Another challenge to creating a cohesive
technology plan is the unification of realtime
monitoring. Make a list. What are the
real time alerts you have at your disposal?
While this list may not appear to all work
together, by simply being alerts they are creating
a commonality and an opportunity for
monitoring. Any number of life safety, security,
and environmental alarm systems are at
work on any given campus at any given time.
Then, factor in a combination of voice and
data networks, not to mention various communication
devices. Once these alerts are
identified, look at solutions to unify them.
While the evolution of technology has
increased the amount of these alerts, it also
means an increase in infrastructure and
opportunity. Moving from rudimentary to
advanced—from radios, handsets and pagers
to smartphones, smart TVs, and tablets—
there are ample opportunities for communicating.
For example, a school’s campus is
already full of various screens that can be
used to improve communication and information
flow, especially in an emergency.
Why not leverage that screen real estate to
push out critical information to students,
teachers and staff?
Now that a list has been created and a technology
inventory established, the next step is
interoperability. As mentioned above, on
almost every campus and school facility you
will find different life safety, security and
communication systems that have been
installed over the years, but managing all of
these systems separately can result in communication
breakdowns and costly mistakes.
While each of these may have been implemented
with the intention of improving connectivity
and communication, over time,
operating on their own individual platform
can cause more of a problem in itself.
Today’s technology however, can take
advantage of existing networks, devices, and
other software systems and allow them to
work together to enhance emergency alerting
and response management overall.
Every sensor, alarm, and communication
end-point can be unified to ensure that key
individuals, select groups, or entire populations
are able to receive real-time information
about what’s happening on their campus.
This interoperability means that a
school’s existing technology investments
don’t have to go to waste. In fact, their utility
can be expanded.
Such interoperability takes a campus or
school facility from reactionary and siloed to
proactive and holistic in terms of emergency
alerting and response management. By unifying
all of these disparate systems, schools are
able to give their campus eyes, ears and a
voice, plus the knowledge to take appropriate
action. Schools have the technology, they just
need to maximize its power. To do this, it’s
important that we take a look back at what
that process looks like. It begins with schools
and their administrators replacing reactionary
responses with proactive decisions, allowing
for safety preparedness, rather than a
quick fix. The next step is to identify the existing
safety technologies that are already implemented
in the facility, then to ask the major
questions on how they can be utilized efficiently
to provide people with the necessary
information to make informed and timely
decisions. After these technologies and their
abilities are identified, the next step is to bring
all of them together into one platform, thereby
cutting out the confusion of managing
unmonitored and siloed safety solutions.
Once this is done, an effective risk management
plan is nearly complete, the final step is
to simply work out the finishing touches.
Think back to watching TV with a handful
of remotes, rather than just one. Not
only is it inconvenient, but ineffective.
Using a universal remote to combine all of
the separate remotes’ functions together
simplifies the process and creates a cohesive
unifier. This same principle applies to
school safety. When it comes to campus
safety, school systems need to utilize security
cameras, fire alarms, door alarms, and
other safety measures on one platform to
maximize efficiency and improve safety. If
using a universal remote is common sense,
why isn’t it common sense to use software
to tie the various safety measures administered
on a campus together?
This article originally appeared in the July/August 2019 issue of Campus Security & Life Safety.