Mar 27, 2018
Securing a campus starts with the basics — using readily available skills, tools and technologies to form a barrier between children and attackers.
A telling example of getting the basics right happened in November 2017, when a California school’s lockdown program kept a gunman at bay and saved countless children’s lives. In that incident, quick-thinking adults rushed the kids to safety and locked out a man with a rifle. He fired into the classrooms and one shot did hit a child, but it wasn’t fatal.
School shootings happen for complex reasons that make them difficult to prevent altogether. Even so, schools can reduce the likelihood of mass casualties by beefing up their lockdown procedures with technologies that ensure:
- Instantaneous communications. Teachers and administrators need multiple ways to sound the alarm. IT systems in schools must be robust enough to respond quickly in real time during an emergency.
- Clear messaging. Announcements over the school public-address system must be customized so students can be told “this is not a drill” when trouble strikes.
- Mechanical security. Crisis-control systems must be able to lock school doors immediately to limit the access of intruders.
When schools ask us what they have to do to prevent a tragedy, we recommend a holistic approach with three core technology components:
Preparedness at the IT system level
All the communications tools at a school — landlines, cell phones, IP networks, in-class phones — must be folded into a comprehensive communications system that springs into action in a crisis.
At ENT, we develop a custom solution that integrates speakers, intercoms, phones, surveillance cameras and other security tools. Because these tools are already designed for instantaneous communications, they’re readily adapted to the needs of school security.
In a crisis, everybody needs to see and hear the same directions at the same time. The key is creating a series of custom messages for distinct needs. Then, the students will know from their training drills whether they are dealing with a genuine threat.
We like working with the mass-messaging technology from Valcom, which specializes in helping organizations convey instructions during emergencies. Valcom’s paging systems, speakers, horns and other devices provide the clarity, volume and intensity required in a crisis.
Valcom’s IP600 mass-notification Suite includes:
- eLaunch Unified Notification Engine
- Visual notifications — strobes, digital signs and mobile alerts
- Paging — page controls, IP gateways and speakers
This is mature technology developed for a broad range of applications such as manufacturing, transportation and the military. It’s also ideally suited to the security needs of schools.
It seems straightforward enough: Press a button at the first sign of trouble and all the classroom doors lock. Making it happen is not so simple.
Each door requires an automated locking mechanism that must be integrated with other doors plus video cameras and the overall security system.
We prefer working with ISONAS, which specializes in using IP networks to control access to buildings and the rooms within them.
It’s all in the implementation
Physical security is a crowded sector with dozens of suppliers and solution providers. First, you have to identify the right tools for your school. Then, you have to configure them properly — and hope you haven’t missed something when trouble arrives.
The prudent course is to partner with an experienced provider of school security solutions who lives near you and understands the issues you’re confronting. At ENT, we walk our school clients through every phase of the technologies we use, so there’s no confusion when people need to react in an instant.
Give us a call and we’ll help your school figure it all out.