Non-negotiable features of effective school safety technology include measures for prevention, preparedness, and response.

4 considerations for school safety solutions

Non-negotiable features of effective safety technology include measures for prevention, preparedness, and response

Key points:

Recent school safety data revealed that during one school year, more than 900,000 violent incidents – such as physical attacks and fights (with or without a weapon) – were reported by public schools throughout the U.S. 

Many schools adopt safety technology in hopes that it will never be used, but the reality is that safety incidents happen every day; therefore, the technology should be able to handle everyday situations in addition to the most extreme. Schools need to be equipped with technology to prevent, prepare, and respond to all situations, from medical emergencies to the most serious ones such as active shooters. 

To help support and encourage the adoption of safety technology in schools, many states have passed Alyssa’s Law, which requires all public elementary and secondary school buildings to be equipped with a silent panic alarm connected to local law enforcement.  

When determining the most effective school safety technologies, there are four critical areas that district leaders should focus on to ensure that the solution they choose will meet the needs of their K-12 campus.  

Adoption and utilization 

In order for technology to be effective, all staff must be equipped to use the technology and staff must be committed to adopting and using the solution. Most solutions either come with an app-based panic alarm or a wearable panic button. 

While app-based safety platforms have become popular over the past several years because of their low cost, the usage of these app-based solutions is also low, making them impractical as a component of a school’s safety plan. According to news reports, schools that use solutions requiring personnel to download an app on their personal mobile phone see a download rate of just 20 percent. This can be attributed to the hesitancy to use personal devices for work purposes and overall privacy concerns. When most staff members don’t have the solution, it becomes less effective, decreasing the chance of positive outcomes when emergencies arise. 

During high-stress situations, it is also common for individuals to experience a decrease in control of their fine motor skills. So, requiring staff to maintain control of their motor skills to quickly perform a task such as unlocking their phone, searching for an app, and choosing the type of alert that needs to be sent out in order to notify the school, law enforcement, and emergency responders, may not be realistic. 

On the other hand, research has shown that when wearable panic button systems are provided, the ease and accessibility of the single-button device gives school staff an increased sense of support and confidence to take action in an emergency situation. That’s due to the fact that wearables are always on your person, and usually are designed to be small and discreet. This makes it much easier for staff to use, especially while under duress as these types of panic buttons are designed to be easy to use. An accessible, easy-to-use tool that connects to school administration and local law enforcement can be vital when trying to quickly identify and respond to emergencies.  

Connection sources and campus-wide coverage 

During a time when we are highly dependent on our mobile devices, we all know that poor connections and dead zones can happen anywhere at any time. Schools are even more susceptible to bad or unreliable cell signals due in part to how they’re built.  

When considering school safety tools available on the market, administrators should consider those that operate on networks independent of Wi-Fi or cellular data. These solutions are much more reliable and effective when alerting authorities of incidents. 

Also, it is critical that a safety system can provide total campus-wide coverage, including both the buildings and all of the campus property, to ensure that every square foot of your school property is protected at all times.  

Immediate and multi-layered notification 

When and if an emergency happens on campus, every second counts. That’s why it is important that you choose a safety platform that enables staff to immediately and discreetly request assistance or initiate emergency protocols from anywhere on campus, instantly, through multimodal communications that immediately notify key stakeholders of an incident. This includes first responders, law enforcement, and other emergency personnel, as well as staff and students.  

A platform that provides multiple means of notifications, such as colored strobe lights, desktop alerts, and intercom integration, can help to communicate with everyone inside the school and offers a greater chance of getting them to safety. 

Technology that relies solely upon notifications to staff, such as emails or texts, is highly ineffective and can result in mass chaos if we’re relying on staff to alert their students and give direction on the next steps. With strobe lights and intercom announcements, communication is spread throughout the school, with information on how to proceed, allowing everyone inside the school to act instantly and in the way that they’ve practiced in drills.  

Precise location detection 

A modern school campus may be spread over 10+ acres with multiple buildings, and multiple floors and may have 50 or more classrooms. Substantial time can be lost if the only information first responders have is the street address. 

In the most serious cases, such as an active shooter, those responding need to be able to identify the location of the event to direct help to where it is immediately needed. Safety technology that incorporates campus maps and building floor plans can point first responders to the location where an alert was initiated and help them determine how to reach that point as quickly as possible. 

Even for everyday occurrences like medical emergencies, authorities should be able to ascertain where the crisis is happening – down to the floor level or classroom number – so that EMTs can quickly locate those in need and administer medical attention. In addition to training, adopting technology that has mapping features is critical because in any type of emergency situation, every second counts. 

For every type of incident, from every day to the extreme, school districts want to improve their school safety strategies. There are many solutions on the market for taking measures to enhance school safety. When looking at district budgets and taking into account the concerns amongst students, staff, and parents, three non-negotiable considerations district leaders should look for when adopting effective, new technology are measures for prevention, preparedness, and response.

We all play a role in protecting our schools, and because emergencies happen, we must ensure our schools are equipped with multiple safety and security layers that will provide the type of environment where teachers, staff, and students feel safe and supported.  

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