Leaders eye school safety plans after Connecticut attack

“It’s just very difficult to be able to … eliminate all those risks,” said Rick Johnson, superintendent of the Mahomet-Seymour Community Schools in Illinois.

The mass killing inside a Connecticut elementary school has educators across the country reviewing their school security measures, reassuring parents, and asking, “What if?”

“Every principal will be going through their own protocols, the things they do on a daily basis to protect their students and staff,” said Dr. Will Keresztes, associate superintendent for student support in the school system in Buffalo, N.Y.

Amid grief and condolences for the 20 children fatally shot Dec. 14 by a gunman in Newtown, Conn., school leaders nationwide sent eMails, text messages, and phone recordings assuring parents and children their schools are safe, while acknowledging the difficult balancing act in keeping that promise.…Read More

Emergency notification in jeopardy if students tune out digital signage

Messages should be capable of being conveyed through digital signage in just seven seconds or less, or else students will tune them out.

If a digital sign can’t convey a message in seven seconds, the technology runs the risk of blending into the background, one expert says—and during campus emergencies, that could prove dangerous.

Schools and departments on college campuses are often competing with each other to see which building touts the most advanced digital signage, but in the arms race for fancy graphics on impressive screens, the potential for emergency messages is lost, said Sean Matthews, president of Visix, a developer of software that’s used in digital signage.

Read more about emergency notifications in higher education……Read More

New Blackboard notifications: Customizable, quick, and mobile

Blackboard Connect lets administrators translate messages from English to Spanish.

Students already inundated with eMails and texts to their smart phones now can decide when they get campus messages blasted out to the student body using Blackboard Inc.’s latest iteration of its emergency notification system. Emergency alerts, regardless of customization, would still be sent to everyone.

Officials from Blackboard’s Connect division announced July 11 that new features available through the company’s alert program would include customization, easier targeting of specific student groups, and the option of sending messages via Apple mobile devices.

Blackboard’s updated notification system uses technology from AlertNow, a company used in more than 2,200 K-12 school districts that was bought by Blackboard last year.…Read More

Not getting the (text) message

Forty percent of campuses encourage students to sign up for alerts during orientation.
Forty percent of campuses encourage students to sign up for alerts during orientation.

It’s a typical morning on campus, with students heading to class and professors and staff arriving for work, when suddenly there is an emergency. It could be a flood, a gas leak, or an intruder on campus. How quickly can the campus notify the community? How many people can the campus reach in those critical minutes immediately following an emergency?

Traditional methods of mass notification, such as sirens, television, and radio, only provide critical information to the community in a timely manner if they tune in. And, in the event of a power outage, those methods might not be available at all.

In recent years, schools and colleges have been forced to re-evaluate emergency response systems, including mass-notification solutions. Many institutions have added eMail and text messaging to their mass-communication methods roster, which works well with today’s generation of college students, who already rely heavily on cell phones and text messages.…Read More

Security expert offers valuable insights for schools

eSN's new security blog covers intrusion prevention, mass notification, anti-bullying measures, and more.
eSN's new security blog covers intrusion prevention, emergency notification, anti-bullying steps, and more.

Six things administrators can do to enhance the safety of their schools … two key ways to prevent bullying from occurring … how to control access to school buildings more effectively: These are some of the many nuggets of wisdom served up in a new eSchool News blog on school security.

Written by Patrick Fiel, public safety adviser for ADT Security Services and a former executive director of security for the Washington, D.C., Public School System, the blog offers valuable school safety insights every Tuesday and Thursday.

Fiel—who learned how to protect stakeholders’ safety during his 22 years of service in the Army Military Police Corps, where he had special assignments to the Pentagon, NATO headquarters in Belgium, and the West Point Military Academy—has been a go-to source for the media on public safety issues. During his time with ADT, Fiel has conducted more than 100 television, radio, newspaper, and magazine interviews as a public and school safety expert.…Read More

Notification delay surfaces in Alabama shootings

The UAH shootings could bring more attention to text message alert systems, experts say.
The UAH shootings could bring more attention to text message alert systems, experts say.

Nearly an hour passed before University of Alabama at Huntsville (UAH) officials dispatched emergency notification to students and faculty after fatal shootings allegedly committed by a professor, raising new questions about campus-based alert systems.

University President David Williams sent an eMail to faculty and students Feb. 15—three days after the shootings that killed three people and injured three others—and said campus police responded to the gunfire within minutes, but the university community was not alerted via text message or eMail.

“… Some of you are understandably troubled about the speed with which a text message alert was sent following the shootings,” Williams said in his open letter to UAH students and faculty. “As any institution would do after an incident like this, our university will conduct a complete examination of the emergency response. How to more effectively use the university’s text message system in the midst of a fast-moving, life-threatening situation will certainly be part of that review.”…Read More