What Schools Need to Know
Follow this guide for evaluating, implementing a security plan to decrease shooter response times
- By Danielle Myers
- October 01, 2021
As schools resume across the country this fall, safety
and security is top of mind for parents, faculty and
administrators alike. Traditionally, as security alerts
arise, schools address individual needs rather than
formulating a cohesive safety and security plan with
technology to reinforce it. This can cause a siloed approach to safety,
and gaps in safety plans. The following is a systematic guide for evaluating,
implementing and running a comprehensive, security plan for
Integrating Your Systems
Most school systems use a variety of technologies that typically have
separate jobs, such as access control, security cameras, and communications.
These are all important tools, but when siloed don’t create
a cohesive safety solution, rather, they only address a small set of
safety concerns, such as addressing mass communication needs but
not addressing point of entry vulnerability.
Instead, schools should examine ways they can actively prevent,
detect and triage security threats, such as mass shootings in realtime.
This starts with a safety audit of all policies, procedures and
technology currently in place to combat emergency situations, like an
active shooter situation. The audit process ofien reveals gaps in a
school’s safety plan and room for improvement, and an opportunity
to adopt additional technology and resources.
Additionally, schools should combine these systems under a single
platform to create an integrated safety solution. Implementing situational
awareness and response technology is a more proactive solution
for schools, as it unifies all of their security and safety systems
onto one platform to improve communication, workffow and operations
especially in an emergency situation. Time is of the essence in
critical situations and using technology to reduce the amount of time
the information takes to get to the proper people can save lives.
For example, schools may upgrade their cameras and access control
systems, but most do not have the ability to access the live feed in order
to alert staff about an incident unfolding in the building that is caught
on camera. This reactive approach results in a communication breakdown.
Implementing an automated alerting platform can turn alarms
from stand-alone systems, into detailed alerts for delivery to communication
endpoints. This means school administrators, teachers, and
other onsite personnel can receive real-time information about possible threats and can immediately initiate the appropriate response plan.
The live feed would be sent to first responders, such as law enforcement,
a school resource officer or a principal, in order to launch a
quick response. With today’s smarter networks and devices, plus an
automated alerting platform to tie them all together, it is easier and
more cost-effective than ever to create a safety and security bubble
over a single campus or entire district.
Monitoring Access Points
One way a school can integrate technology for optimal safety and security
is by auditing their entry points. While schools vary in their entry
practices from having a manual sign in at the front desk to keycard
entry, the doorway is the first point of access to each building. Entry
access control systems are essential for optimum security. The ideal
security system allows a person from anywhere in the building to both
see and communicate with visitors before entering the building. This
gives staffas much information as possible to make an informed decision
about which visitors should be allowed to access the building.
Rather than having an employee assigned to wait by the doors and
monitor entry, administrators can deploy automated alerting to allow
staffmembers to receive an alert on their phone containing detailed
information about any individual requesting building access; the alert
can even contain live video footage pulled from security cameras. The
employee can then permit access directly from their phone with the
push of a button or secure the building in the case of a threat.
Adding an extra level of security with credential tracking and permissions,
including key cards and pin codes, can be implemented
throughout the building as an added layer of caution. Lastly, integrated
cameras and building access sensors can allow access points to
be monitored with a notification should the building be breached
with a propped door to eliminate a threat early. Identifying areas of
improvement at access points is a great first step to establishing a
Alerting the Right People at the Right Time
In the case of an active shooter inside the building, situational awareness
technology notifies the right people, with the right information,
in the shortest amount of time. From notifying law enforcement to
employees and loved ones, technology can play a vital role in making
sure everyone is aware of the situation to respond quickly.
This cuts down on people wondering what to do if they see something
suspicious, or are in shock amid an emergency. Instead, a protocol
is put in place, and executed for the use of a panic button to alert
people of the situation immediately. Technology can make all staff
feel empowered to act quickly and efficiently to deescalate an emergency
situation, ensuring that every second is being optimally utilized
and that emergency staffare alerted in real-time.
Technology has become vital in the safety and security of schools,
businesses, and other public places because it provides peace of mind.
For instance, Blount County School District, just one county over
from the recent Knoxville, TN, school shooting, implemented technology
solutions to better equip them to respond to an active shooter
situation a year ago. Their use of situational awareness and response
technology integrated all safety and security technology into one
platform and enhanced their mobile duress technologies throughout
the school buildings.
Specific school staffmembers were given mobile duress buttons to be
used in the event of an emergency. When one of the mobile duress buttons
is triggered, an alert is immediately sent out to the proper staffand/
or first responders with critical information. This goes out, via desktop
alerts and includes a live video feed from the cameras closest to the triggered
device and the location of the device triggered. This ensures quick
and correct action would be taken to manage any situation.
The school believes this proactive approach will ultimately save
lives in the case of an emergency. Each school had a different set of
needs and requirements for its program. In a mass shooting situation,
one minute can be the difference between life and death. While it can
be overwhelming for schools to take on such a challenging and complex
issue, starting with an evaluation, and identifying key areas of
opportunity/improvement, and incorporating a comprehensive safety
plan, schools can take steps necessary towards a brighter and safer
future for our children, students and staff.
Making Your School Situationally Aware
Situational awareness technology is used for other mass notification
updates to parents and faculty such as school closures, COVID-19
exposures, or new guidelines. An automated alerting platform can
streamline lockdowns, evacuations, severe weather responses, medical
emergencies, and many typical day-to-day events. By implementing
an automated platform, schools are not only preparing for active
shooter situations but also preparing for the future.
By maintaining the safety conditions and security of their school
buildings, administrators can ensure that when the time comes for
students to return, they are more ready than ever. Running a school
is already a demanding job, and with COVID-19 and an increase in
gun violence adding even more pressure and complications, it is easy
to let things be swept under the rug, resulting in a minor issue becoming
a major problem. To minimize risk, it’s worth investing in a solution
that can catch an issue before it escalates, relieving stafffrom
doing unnecessary work and allowing them to focus on what’s really
important - teaching their students.
Navigating Increasing Violence in Schools
While several factors have led to school shootings, mental health is
one that cannot be ignored. According to a recent report, staffmembers
need to be able to identify students who may exhibit or be a
victim of violence by examining and analyzing patterns and trends in
their behaviors. A number of factors should be considered including
attendance records, student grades, previous history or pattern of
behavioral issues, and experience with bullying.
Having multiple touchpoints with students each day visible on one
platform allows staffto view all interactions in one place to help identify
trends or issues. For example, if a student is consistently absent
from lunch on a certain day of the week, administrators may be able
to identify that the student is facing food insecurity, or being bullied
by another student during the lunch hour. Consolidating information
onto a single platform not only improves efficiency, but also has the
potential to spot issues that could escalate into situations that are
more violent if not addressed properly.
Upgrading technology to protect students does not always have to be
out of budget for schools. Many states, including Ohio and Kentucky
are allocating funds and offering grants to schools to incorporate technology
solutions. The technology allows schools to improve safety and
communication by providing staffthe ability to summon help from any
web browser, which allows law enforcement to be notified quickly and
discreetly, and to send and receive alerts via various devices.
Increasing public awareness of safety and security concerns and
preparing for the worst can save lives in emergency situations. When
the right people can receive detailed information about what is happening
around them, they can react immediately and effectively. Situational
awareness technology creates time to respond and that is
critical for life safety as well as optimizing operations.
This article originally appeared in the September / October 2021 issue of Campus Security & Life Safety.