The fall semester has been the focus of the news cycle in recent weeks – with parents and faculty striving to make critical decisions about our kids’ return to school. For some, remote learning will stretch into the fourth quarter, while hybrid scenarios will be tested in other counties and states. Still others will return full time, with social distancing measures in place.
In the midst of a new, or at least modified, way of working and teaching – keeping our students and faculties safe and secure will remain paramount at campuses throughout the country. To do that, understanding the limitations of traditional campus security measures can help school leaders develop a more cohesive plan.
Some tools, while extremely beneficial as part of an overall response plan, reveal certain limitations when used as a solitary means of protection.
- Mobile shortcomings: Fingerprint authentication and voice and face recognition are great – when they work. Even on the best of days, we have all been locked out of our phones when we don’t swipe up or frame our face in quite the way the technology wants us to. In the thick of a crisis and/or emergency situation – when coordination is significantly hindered – these momentary setbacks can be critical. Additional limitations may include GPS tech failing to specifically identify the location of an incident; phones in need of charging, and proper cellular coverage for all corners of a school facility (outbuildings, the athletics field, etc.) For these reasons, mobile devices should never be considered the first line of defense in a school setting.
- Panic buttons and alerts: We’ve seen a number of facilities in which alarm triggers and panic buttons are implemented as a more reliable alternative to mobile applications. However, similar concerns apply. Being able to physically reach and access such wall-mounted units is paramount when acts of violence or intrusion occur. The location of the teacher and all other parties involved are
- Two-way radios and/or walkie talkies also present a number of limitations. While these units can be phenomenal for brief, verbal exchanges in various settings, their size and bulkiness can be a hindrance to faculty and far too many do not provide information regarding location. Reception is frequently an issue, as well, as push-to-talk functions can be overwhelmed by a cacophony of background voices, and many units typically allow only one speaker at a time.
The bottom line is this: security is about creating layers or redundancies.
Campus security vulnerabilities like those mentioned above will always exist. Things are going to go awry during an emergency event, and people – and tools – will frequently not perform in the way you plan or predict. Therefore, it is imperative to build layers of security so when one fails or is compromised, another is present as backup.
It is also important to implement the following hallmarks of an optimized emergency response system:
- Ease of Use: Time is of the essence during an emergency. Alert and alarm systems should be intuitive, allowing faculty to request help and/or issue a distress call with one-touch. Body worn devices can save precious seconds that would otherwise be consumed with the activation of a smartphone app and related authentications.
- Accessibility: School staff should be able to effectively access security measures from all corners of the campus – from classrooms to parking lots to gymnasiums. School-related crises – fights, injuries, and worse – frequently occur outside of the actual building.
- Accuracy: The chaos of a school related emergency can make verbal of basic information such as location, name, and phone number challenging for the caller. Certain notification devices and apps can be assigned to the user, allowing for automatic identification – and they can even zero in on the precise location of the emergency, as opposed to GPS units, which cannot.
- Entirety: Keeping the entire campus informed and abreast of emerging or existing security situations is essential to a successful outcome. From pre-recorded intercom announcements to interior and exterior strobe lighting that can alert students, staff, and visitors in various areas of the campus, eliminating confusion, and streamlining response. It is crucial to link security systems to provide instantaneous information to first responders.
Secom, LLC continues to strongly recommend the use of mobile devices, two-way radios, and other types of panic devices as another layer or redundancy versus a solitary solution. Establishing multiple contingencies will be important as students return to schools this fall. Our team can help. Call us today at 301-210-0022