The Sandy Hook tragedy has proved to be a major turning point in the way that schools think about and respond to crises, says Michael Dorn, executive director of Safe Havens International, which works with schools to improve their security posture.
“Before this, a lot of officials had not been willing to empower their teachers and facilities staff with the authority and tools they needed to respond immediately to threats and emergencies, but that’s all changed now,” he says. “As a result, schools are willing to use more and new kinds of technology, and vendors are responding with innovative, user-friendly technologies and products.”
Here are some of the latest and greatest security capabilities available to schools:
- New alert notification applications integrated with public address systems allow any teacher in the building to pick up a VoIP or mobile phone, put in an access code and order a mass evacuation or school lockdown.
- E911 notification systems can automatically alert emergency responders in a crisis, but they also can be programmed to simultaneously send out prerecorded messages to need-to-know school officials, such as the principal, building manager or school nurse, so they can also respond.
- Body cameras allow principals and other officials to clearly document any hostile or belligerent confrontations with students or visitors.
- Teachers and staff who visit the homes of truant or troubled students can carry smartphones outfitted with GPS-enabled tracking and alarm systems, which can be activated with the push of a button (or that turn on automatically if the phone hits the ground) to quickly notify the school security center or 911 of a problem and also pinpoint the phone’s location.
- In the event of an evacuation and the need for mass reunification between potentially panicked students and family members, schools can utilize tablets integrated with visitor management systems and student information systems to make sure that an adult asking to pick up a child is authorized to do so and also to document all the details of a reunification.