Here're seven major steps for schools to detect and mitigate active shooters and other security concerns at school.
Several security incidents in the US continue to keep school safety a major concern. The year 2020-21 saw the highest number of school shooting incidents ever at 93. This year has already seen 27 incidents.
But none of these seems to have significantly increased efforts to boost security in schools. If the incidents themselves were not enough, researchers have given data-backed insights to encourage threat mitigation efforts. But the shootings continue to occur, and people continue to die.
We explore seven major steps that schools can take to detect and mitigate active shooters and other security concerns at school.
Make sure your budget considers every factor
One of the biggest problems that security consultants and integrators have faced is the lack of funds to provide the best security measures in schools. This is usually a concern in public schools, which have to rely on government funds for infrastructure development.
Fortunately, after the most recent shooting, US President Joe Biden signed a bipartisan law to give $1 billion for schools to “create safe and healthy learning environments for all students” as well as an additional $300 million for training and equipment that can help during a threat of violence.
But just getting funds is not enough. Creating a school safety budget based on a comprehensive security plan that considers every potential threat is essential. Consultants and integrators can make schools aware that just installing a camera will not stop a shooter. There should be integrated solutions as well as trained response and threat mitigation teams. All of these require adequate budget allocation.
Assess threats, vulnerabilities, and risks
You cannot ensure complete protection without a professional assessment of threats, vulnerabilities, and risks. Security professionals know this, but what about the schools? More awareness is necessary to help schools understand scientific, systematic management of security.
A security assessment helps schools understand which areas need better protection, which routes can be used in case of emergencies, etc. This is also a foundation that would allow authorities to decide what kind of security devices they need and where to install them.
Don’t use just surveillance cameras and access control
Security devices often include surveillance cameras and access control systems, but schools can consider more sophisticated solutions like gunshot detection systems and drones. Video analytics has advanced significantly in recent years, and making use of them can help authorities move from a reactive approach to a proactive approach. Weapon detection, assault detection, and fall detection are all helpful features in a school environment.
Setting up a virtual perimeter security system is critical for schools that don’t have physical perimeter protection. Wherever possible, consider a perimeter fence supplemented by surveillance cameras. But if fencing isn’t an option, ensure a virtual perimeter fence is set up using surveillance cameras that can instantly alert security operators if they detect something unusual.
Employ an emergency notification system
A school emergency alert system enables schools to communicate quickly to staff, students, and first responders when an incident occurs to take the right action. An effective emergency notification will allow quick and reliable broadcast of messages to prevent and manage crises.
An emergency alert system is an essential part of school security, not just when dealing with an active shooter but also for a variety of other scenarios. Schools can notify students of critical weather updates, 911 emergencies and even automate school bells. Many solutions in the market allow notifications via voice, text, email, and social media.
Involve parents and the community for better protection
Creating an environment that engages parents and community members will help schools detect problems before they occur. Parents may be able to know if something concerns their children at school and if the school authorities can get this information, they can also look into it.
Social media monitoring without invading anyone’s privacy is also something that would help. In fact, sometimes clues about a possible incident can be gained from social media posts. Reports suggest the shooter at the Texas school had made threats on a social media app before the incident that became the deadliest school attack in the US in a decade.
Other steps include promoting children's proper behavioral and mental development by teaching them life skills like anger and stress management. The community can also become close observers to check for problems that could later become security concerns.
Run drills to prepare for the worst
Often delay in decision making or delay in action is the biggest problem when a security incident occurs. For instance, when there is a gunshot, the first instinct is to panic, which makes decision-making difficult, even if it is just to run away.
Training for such situations is the answer to this problem. Staff and students must regularly train with first responders on what to do during a security incident. Like fire drills, these regular practices would help them make quick decisions and act on them.
Check and update security plans regularly
You cannot just set it and leave – that’s a basic rule of security. Situations change all the time. New infrastructure can replace the old, a strong door can become weak with wear and tear, environmental changes always happen, etc. Hence ensuring regular maintenance and upgrade of security plans and equipment is necessary.
Upgrades are also important to replace outdated devices with new solutions available in the market. Technology is advancing at a rapid pace, bringing new, better products to the market. While most customers cannot upgrade hardware too often, it must not be neglected as new solutions can always offer better results.
School security requires a concentrated effort that includes planning, preparation, execution, and maintenance. This begins with allocating the right amount of funds for security projects. Once the budget is decided, making a plan is the next step. After making and executing the plan, review and upgrade are essential.
Bringing the community and parents together is crucial as well to create a proactive security ecosystem that continuously monitors the well-being of staff and students.