Technology has had a role to play in school safety since the first set of metal detectors were installed over thirty years ago. Metal detectors are no longer as prevalent as they once were, but other mechanisms are gradually taking their place, increasing the role of technology in school safety.
In 2016, the RAND Corporation published a study identifying twelve categories of school safety technologies that protect children and faculty staff in K-12 schools. Some, such as 1980s walk-through metal detectors, were in the process of being retired due to concerns they were increasing students' negative attitudes towards school. Others, such as palm scanners, were being phased in.
The most common technologies being used to enhance school safety include video surveillance cameras, entry control equipment and other forms of identification technology (tags, badges and stickers). However, while many schools are implementing technologies to prevent incidents at schools, few have mechanisms in place to protect children, faculty and staff should an incident occur regardless of the available technologies.
The key to containing any emergency incident and minimizing the risk to life is the speed at which 9-1-1 can be contacted and first responders dispatched. Although many schools have installed alarm systems, these do not necessarily summon 9-1-1 any faster than an emergency call. All a 9-1-1 call dispatcher will learn from an alarm being activated is the general location of an emergency. They will not know what type of emergency it is or where it is occurring exactly on a school campus.
Accelerate Better Informed Responses
Fortunately, technology now exists that when an alarm is activated, it informs 9-1-1 call dispatchers about the nature of the emergency and where exactly it is occurring. Furthermore, as this panic button technology is a smartphone app - rather than a wall-mounted or desk-mounted button - it is immediately accessible to authorized users, who can summon the service appropriate for the emergency with the touch of a screen. The app uses GPS tracking to advise the call dispatcher of the user's exact location.
In addition to accelerating responses, the system to which the app connects displays vital information about the premises on which the incident is occurring and its surrounding geography. With this information, call dispatchers can provide first responders with information such as the quickest routes to the emergency and the best access points when they arrive. The time that can be saved is not only crucial in active shooter events, but also in fires and in medical emergencies.
Enhance Ability to Manage Incidents in Progress
The smartphone emergency service can also substitute for the lack of a “Next Generation 9-1-1” service in jurisdictions that have not yet upgraded their analog services to digital (which facilitates the exchange of images, text, video and data). Using the app, incident managers can coordinate response efforts and maintain verbal and non-verbal contact with staff involved in the emergency - enhancing both internal/external communication and situational awareness.
This not only has the benefits of better containing an emergency and resolving it quicker, but the information gathered by incident managers can be used to keep friends, families and relatives informed to prevent unhelpful rumors circulating on social media. If informed early enough, it can also prevent friends, families and relatives calling 9-1-1 after having been informed of an emergency by their child - thus releasing resources on Public Safety Answering Points and 9-1-1 call dispatchers.
Find Out More about the Evolving Role of Technology in School Safety
As we continue to look at methods of securing our schools and providing a safe learning
environment for children and educators, those in charge or who can influence school safety planning such as school safety task forces must consider interoperability and facilitating a collaborative environment between school personnel and the first responders that pledge their lives to protecting our most vulnerable residents.
A simple to use smartphone app exists which allows authorized users to alert 9-1-1 about an active shooter, fire, medical emergency or other emergency with the touch of a screen. This technology shortens response times, ensures first responders are better informed, and facilitates coordinated and accurate incident management. Learn more about this technology which has also been developed in collaboration with public safety agencies and 9-1-1 organizations - including the National Emergency Number Association (NENA), and the Association of Public-Safety Communication Officials (APCO).
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