Technology tools abound to help schools increase safety and security. As districts try to evaluate which of these tools are the best and which areas are the highest priority, it can become confusing.
In my opinion, it helps to look at each of the four phases of school security to breakdown which areas might need the most attention the soonest. It also typically helps to invest in prevention and mitigation more so than response and recovery. The dollars spent in being proactive go a lot further than the dollars spent in the recovery phase.
Even though that might be the case, it is important to take a wide view when considering different technology options for school safety. Some of the ideas are very narrow and will only support certain situations, but other options (like surveillance cameras) can assist schools in a wide variety of areas.
Here are a few different ideas of tech tools that can be used to increase the safety of a school campus. Each of these can play a role in each of the four phases of planning for crises in our schools:
Monitored and Controlled Access: Almost every newly built school comes with a series of doors and checks to get into the office. Many older schools are being retrofitted for this too. If a building doesn’t have this already in place, there are technology options for creating a safer entrance to the school. If the exterior doors are up to code, magnetic locking systems can be installed and controlled and scheduled by the office. This coupled with a bi-directional camera for guests to use when entering the building is an excellent, fairly cost effective way to increase security. Part of the planning and mitigation process for controlling access comes from protocols and training for secretaries who will be making decisions about who to allow access to the building and who not to allow access.
Fast Alert Systems: These systems have become the norm on college campuses after the past decade saw a huge spike in college shooting incidents. K-12 schools have mostly followed suit and quick alert systems are almost the norm at this point. There are options available at various costs, so even if your district already has technology so send a direct SMS (text message), email, and a phone call to all parents and students, other options might be worth considering. Make sure to check to see if any system syncs with the district student information system so that all data is always up to date.
Alert Alarm Systems: This technology is very new, and therefore has a pretty high price point right now, but is worth a look for all schools in my opinion. It works much like a fire alarm, but for an intruder. Each classroom and hallway around the school has a “box” that can be triggered to alert administrators and the local law enforcement. It works through a fingerprint scan, so it is essentially tamperproof. Safe Defend is one company in the market with a few other players.
Cameras and Surveillance: This can be a very expensive upgrade for schools depending on what all they want to include. It can also be a must, especially for larger schools, to keep the school safe. Just the visibility of cameras can help to deter crime and intruders at a school. Exterior cameras are easily seen from the outside of the building and can monitor all the entrances and exits. But interior cameras can also assist administrators in watching footage for other incidents. When things are stolen out of lockers, fights happen in the hallway, or there is a food fight at lunch, cameras in the building can help to save a lot of time in sorting out the situation.
Background Check and Visitor Passes: Some schools have the ability to run a quick background check on all visitors through their driver’s license. This system also will print a visitor badge with a picture on it. The badge tells all school staff within the building that the person has been checked and is allowed access to the building. Raptor technology has one example of this in action, but there are other technologies available that will do the same.
Research tells us that the best deterrent isn’t a piece of technology at all, but a human being. Having a police or security presence on site is the most effective way to go about curbing any potential violent acts that could occur at the school. The advantage of technology is of course cost, but also is the ability to “be present” at multiple occasions at once. Technology, at this point in time, at least, cannot eliminate the actual threat like a police office can, but it does play a critical role in supporting law enforcement and administrators in creating safe learning environments.
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