How Technology Can Be Used to Keep Schools and Students Safe
- By Kevin Brown, Alok Jain
- April 01, 2021
The COVID pandemic has changed how we educate young
people in this country. Teaching students safely, and creating
safe environment for students to learn has always been a challenge
in the 21st century, given the sad new normal in
schools. Whether it is guns, fires, bus accidents, bullying –
you can fill in the blank. fiese are real challenges schools face.
Consider the Following
According to the Government Accountability Off ce (GAO), there are
roughly 115 school bus incidents involving fatalities each year. Most
people have no idea that this many fatalities occur on school buses
every single year.
According to the National Fire Protection Association, there are
more than 23 3,200 fires each year in schools in the United States.
Each year schools tragically instill incorrect habits into young children
with antiquated fire drills that we will discuss later.
Finally, there have been more than 280 school shootings since
2009, according to CNN. fiis, of course, gets all of the news coverage.
In fact, it took a global pandemic that closed our schools to stop
the shootings in the latter part of 2020, and this pandemic has introduced
new challenges to our schools.
- How do you re-open safely?
- What new protocols need to be in place?
- How do you measure adherence to these new protocols?
Addressing the Challenges
COVID has introduced two major challenges to schools. First, there
is the challenge of keeping students, teachers safe on campus. Second,
there is the separate challenge of educating students who are sitting at
home learning remotely. fiese challenges are compounded by the
fact that in many schools, it is not an either/or proposition. Some
come to school, some stay at home.
fie problem, however, is once school is over, all of these students are
together. Take a glance in your neighborhoods. You will see students in
their groups, hanging out together, and their idea of social distancing
can be measured in inches, not feet. Compound this with the very real
problem of ‘COVID-fatigue’ that plagues their parents, and you have a
powder keg that is placed firmly in the laps of our schools.
fiey have no control over what their students may bring to the
classroom. fie ‘safe bubble’ that schools seek springs a leak before the
school day even begins.
So, what do we do? What can technology do to assist in this? How
do we create safer campuses for schools concerned with shootings,
fires, bullying, gas leaks, weather events and now a global pandemic,
when they barely have enough money to upgrade phones systems, or
install new clocks or new bell systems?
fie solution for these challenges is an intelligent, focused use of
Artificial Technologies (AI) that are designed to detect incidents, or
events, and make predictions regarding likely outcomes and actions.
An event can be anything. To name a few; faculty congregating too
closely. Students coming to school with a temperature. Students gathering
in a small area. A student carrying a gun. Smoke in the restroom.
A fire in the chemistry lab. All of these are events or incidents
that today’s technology can detect.
AI allows this technology to quickly recognize these events, and
then make predictions as to what is happening. fiis technology can
look for a gun, can “sniff out” that smoke or vape, can realize people
are too close to one another. Sensors that detect smoke, temperature
changes, motion, and proximity are available today. But that’s just the
AI – with machine learning – allows us to have smarter schools,
where live data allows us to do things more intelligently. For example,
take the antiquated fire drills we mentioned earlier. firoughout the
year, schools run fire drills, where students dutifully walk out the
door, turn right and walk down the corridor, then turn le and walk
toward the EXIT doors. fiat is what they know to do. But what if – in
the midst of a real fire that occurs in a classroom next to those EXIT
doors, we end up walking those students – by routine – into the trouble
area. AI changes this.
AI technology – embedded in speakers and in signage devices
around the school – recognizes where the fire has broken out. fien,
based upon that live data, the speakers and signage are sent new
instructions, routing people away from the problem. An EXIT sign
changes – turning into a sign that tells people to turn around and
gives these instructions audibly and visually. A simple EXIT sign
becomes a threat detection device, a speaker, and a signage device.
Put this into today’s pandemic. No longer do we ask students to stand
in line while technology “reads” their temperature, which now introduces
a social distancing dilemma. No, the technology to read their
temperature is now – as with fires – embedded into normal technology
that is everywhere in the school It is placed in EXIT signs, in STAIRWELL
signs, in clocks, in speakers, in smartboards in classrooms and
signage devices in hallways. Wherever a student goes, AI and various
smart sensors are embedded into the school, checking temperatures,
checking distance, reminding students to keep their distance.
It sounds far-fetched like something out of a sci-fimovie.
As any parent who have been to one of the Disney amusement
parks, or Universal Studios can tell you, there is some very ‘smart
technology’ that routes people from point A to point B, which provides
patrons with live, ever-changing information. fie same logic
that we see at these parks, in our new cars – this technology can prove
invaluable in our schools.
Imagine technology – hidden and embedded into the normal
school day – that detects guns before they are fired, detects fires and
pinpoints the location, detects a student with a fever and takes a picture
and can send an alert to the closest staff member on their mobile
device. fiis technology exists today, and is far less expensive than
you might think, which is good for our students, our teachers, for all
This article originally appeared in the March / April 2021 issue of Campus Security & Life Safety.