New safety measures include surveillance, alert systems

school-safetyBack-to-school brings new school supplies, new ed-tech initiatives and tools, and, for many, improved school safety measures and procedures.

School districts around the country are doing their part to ensure student safety and to ease parents’ and teachers’ minds. Here’s a look at how some schools are ramping up safety efforts.

Improved communications

In Maryland’s Frederick County Public Schools (FCPS), about 60 schools will soon receive new emergency mass notification alert systems called AlertUs that can emit tones and lights and have scrolling alert messages on devices placed in front offices, said Cliff Cornwell, FCPS security coordinator.

The school system also improved its safety communications with new radios.

Digital radios were installed in every school bus, and 1,500 hand-held radios were placed throughout schools so more staff members can receive school system emergencies or public notices. Some bus routes in previous years had lost contact with school system officials, depending on their locations. Digital radios will allow for better communication and safety measures between bus drivers and school officials, even in “dark areas” that proved spotty and disruptive, officials said.

Entry security and surveillance

Doors were closed and locked after students walked inside Maryland’s FCPS to start the first day of the new school year. The only way a person can gain access to a district school’s front entrance is by pressing a buzzer and announcing their identity.

Last year’s massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Conn., prompted other safety upgrades before the start of the school year. Cornwell said the buzzers, more surveillance cameras, new radios, and additional training requirements are all part of the school system’s efforts to keep a clean safety record.

The safety and security upgrades came from state and federal emergency management grants. Buzzers are now in all schools, and some schools are equipped with additional outside security cameras.

(Next page: How school construction reflects safety concerns)