In the absence of far-reaching gun control laws, US schools are turning to technology to protect students, teachers and staff from guns. This article discusses some of the technologies available.
School shooting has become a severe problem in the United States. In the absence of far-reaching gun control laws
, US schools are turning to technology to protect students, teachers and staff from guns. This article discusses some of the school safety
The best security measure is prevention. In many instances, damage could have been minimized if threats were detected and identified early. In this regard, various technologies can play a role.
First, analytics can be helpful. “Threat detection software that is tied into a validation system is very helpful in the early detection of a threat. For example, a video analytic would register a gun, then alert a human to verify the potential threat. This occurs prior to a shot being fired and is geared to aid in prevention,” said Jason Goodrich, Customer Success Director of CriticalArc. “Facial recognition has improved and could be used to alert facilities about a known threat attempting to make entry. LPR could also be useful if a known threat is attempting to enter.”
Door security also figures heavily in preventing the gunman from entering school premises in the first place. “We have long-standing physical security solutions for school buildings and other public spaces … and those include door locks (electronic and mechanical), as well as emergency exit devices, access control products, keys and credentials, door closers, security glass and the doors themselves. These solutions have really always been a part of the building design process and security ecosystem,” said Ken Cook, Director of National School Safety at Allegion US.
“While it is not the only step in preventing threatening or violent individuals from accessing a building, door security is often the first step. Schools can implement a two-way intercom system at the entrance which is an important first layer of protection. Intercom systems can enable front desk personnel to not only talk to an individual, but also clearly identify the person when the system includes an integrated IP video camera,” said Brad Kamcheff, Marketing Manager at Aiphone.
It is important to point out that, for the different school security systems to work seamlessly, integration is important.
“An open platform approach combined with the ability to integrate with other third-party systems allows schools to benefit from other best-in-class technologies to promote a more robust security posture and permit a coordinated emergency response when necessary,” said John Rezzonico, CEO of Edge360.
Finally, data sharing is critical. In the recent Uvalde incident, for example, authorities could have acted earlier had the gunman’s troubled social media messages been intercepted in time.
“Often, individuals on a troubled path will make remarks or act in a way that gives a clear indication that all is not well, and sometimes people will notice this. Making it easy for them to share their concerns with the right authorities at the right time should be a benchmark of prevention,” said Goodrich. “Our new-generation solutions can allow anonymous reports, to encourage people to share their concerns. This effort can also be supplemented by social media monitoring, and by closer engagement between police or security personnel with the communities they serve.”
Once the outer perimeters have been breached, security measures must be in place inside the school premises to minimize casualty. A combination of access control
, video surveillance
and other technologies can help.
“Time is of the essence in an emergency, and just a few seconds can mean the distinction between security and catastrophe. Therefore, it's crucial to support systems that initiate a lockdown and alert security to the whereabouts of students, instructors, and other staff in the facility,” said Scot Sturges, Director of Business Development for North America at ACRE. “Emergency exits are also required when the need for emergency evacuation arises. Schools can operate cameras, warnings, or corrective action to ensure entryways stay shut, except during a crisis.”
“A combination of video surveillance and two-way intercom systems can prove to be valuable. Video surveillance is key in providing the school’s security with the ability to monitor multiple places at once, especially in the event of an armed person attempting to enter the premises. In the classroom, it is equally important to ensure that teaching staff have access to security tools and can easily communicate with the front office in the event of an emergency. An intercom system installed in each classroom enables a teacher to reach the front office quickly,” Kamcheff said.
Communications with the outside world is also critical so law enforcement and rescue workers can get to the scene at the shortest time.
“I believe emergency notification and support systems used across agencies and public sector organizations can be very beneficial to streamlining communication,” said Alan Stoddard, President of Cognyte North America. “By leveraging intelligent devices, including mobile phones, modern emergency response solutions enable schools to dispatch the optimal responder during an incident based on proximity, availability, and experience. Because you can see the whereabouts of every potential responder, as well as all relevant geographical information and the location of life-saving equipment and other resources, response efforts are rapid and intelligent.”
“It goes back to communication. Ensuring law enforcement and first responders are at the scene immediately is all about streamlining how we share information. Having a clear line of connection with law enforcement and a plan laid out in advance is crucial. Unified communication can streamline this process, allowing various agencies to collaborate and share information to ensure the most effective and quick response,” said Tom Reilly, President of Commend.
Despite these technology advances, certain challenges still persist. One is the fact these solutions are not widely adopted in schools yet, due to budget constraints or limited resources.
“Many schools have legacy access control systems that need updating. If surveillance is in use, most schools are not employing the full capabilities of data analytics and many legacy CCTV systems cannot take advantage of advances in data analysis tech,” said Goodrich. “The new generation of unified emergency alert, location pinpointing, team coordination and communications solutions are being deployed to great effect in higher education settings, on university and college campuses. These solutions are not being used widely in schools yet, but there is huge potential benefit to adopting them.”
Further, training and education on these solutions are also required. “School systems often focus on what to purchase for proactive security measures and how to manage staffing to prevent unwanted intruders. They make significant investments in access control, video surveillance, artificial intelligence, and in some areas, metal detectors. But the simple fact is that all these investments are useless if no one is trained to use them and no one is trained in the correct standard operating procedures to follow when an incident happens,” Stoddard said. “We have to ensure schools are well-versed in how to use their investments and how they can leverage their functionality to adopt a more proactive stance.”