A new school year is upon us. In light of the continuous string of headlines speaking to mass shootings and acts of violence taking place on campuses across the country, it’s important to focus on what can be done to ensure safety and security as we enter this academic year.
Whether that means updating an emergency operations plan or finding innovative ways to leverage technology so that we reduce room for human error during emergencies, there’s much to consider.
There’s never been a more important time to pause, reflect, and take action because lives are at risk. In fact, as of July 2022, there have been 120 school shootings since the 1999 tragedy at Columbine High School. Those shootings have resulted in hundreds of injuries and deaths, as well as families and communities that remain grieving those losses.
From Virginia Tech to Stoneman Douglas to Uvalde, these names remind us of the devastating loss of life that shook our nation and paralyzed the local school communities that they call home.
In today’s blog, we’re sharing insight from our own experience and guidance from vital resources like the U.S. Department of Education regarding how to enhance the safety and physical security of your school district and provide better protection of our children, staff, and visitors through the use of the latest advancements in school safety systems technology.
The Importance of Diagnosing Needs and Consulting with Professionals to Increase School Safety
One of the first steps a district can make when exploring how to improve their school safety system is to consider areas of vulnerability.
At Eastern DataComm, we collaborate with our clients to diagnose and address their unique needs and the challenges they face. The result is a game plan that recognizes their school’s strengths, while recommending technology solutions that help to provide for swifter response times and more effective actions overall.
The importance of this step is that we do not assume that drills or standard measures are sufficient in isolation. In our own recommendations to customers, we also offer insight from other professionals with safety, security, and compliance backgrounds to help guide the process. While following protocols and executing drills are vital pieces to the puzzle, there are other potential ways to enhance campus safety beyond them.
In our recent webinar, Connected & Protected: Why Most Schools Are NOT Fully Prepared for an Active Shooter Event, Eastern DataComm’s Paul Jenne and Porzio Compliance Services’ Kevin Craig, our co-presenters, shared how compliance and technology intersect to foster safer schools and prevent future tragedies before they occur.
Once we’ve diagnosed potential areas for improvement, we can begin to explore how to strengthen the effectiveness of our school’s Emergency Operations Plans.
Implementing Collaborative, Effective Emergency Operations Plans for Every Stage of an Urgent Event
From prevention to recovery, there are safety and security concerns that impact each stage of an emergency. That’s why having an effective emergency response plan (ERP) or emergency operations plan (EOP) is so vital.
Several trusted resources have insight for those wondering how to further enhance their school’s safety and security plans and protocols.
According to The U.S. Department of Education’s Guide for Developing High-Quality School Emergency Operations Plans (Created in concert with the US Departments of Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, Justice, FBI, and FEMA), school emergency response planning should be comprehensive and must:
- Be supported by leadership
- Use assessment to customize plans to the building level
- Consider all threats and hazards
- Provide for the access and functional needs of the whole community (including those with disabilities or accessibility needs)
- Consider all settings and times
With these guidelines in place, schools can more effectively prepare for and respond to emergencies like active shooter events.
In addition to creating plans that are comprehensive, it’s also important to mention that they should be collaborative as well. The National School Board Association’s Fostering Safer Schools: A Legal Guide for School Board Members on School Safety notes that school safety is, of course, the first daily priority of every school. The guide encourages schools to work collaboratively with community agencies, the public, families, and others to ensure that all are actively invested in the safety of the school community. It also encourages schools to work in concert with local law enforcement as they work toward greater safety in schools. For this reason, Eastern DataComm has engineered LENS +OPTICS, our emergency notification system and continuous monitoring service, to encompass communication to alert all on campus of a lockdown event as well as the proper law enforcement officials and first responders.
Finally, emergency plans should recognize that the event itself is only one piece of the puzzle when it comes to fostering safer schools. The U.S. Department of Education’s insight on creating emergency management plans notes the importance of prevention, preparedness, and recovery. These four stages can be applied to a variety of incidents. Considering crises like active shooter situations in this light can allow school officials to identify their areas of strength, as well as areas where they’d like to enhance their efforts to better secure the school for the safety of their staff, students, and visitors.
Integrate Technology to Reduce the Potential for Human Error During Emergencies
Even with a solid plan in place, responding to an emergency has the potential to include human error. In an active shooter event, there are high-stakes, urgent tasks that must be carried out, and the potential for lives to be on the line. If left to people’s decision-making capabilities alone, emotions may hinder their execution.
Therefore, it’s important that, wherever possible, we reduce the potential for human error.
This means that emergency response should include automation wherever it’s possible and especially where it’s most impactful.
Given what we’ve discussed thus far, this also means that whatever notification and communication procedures or technologies we put in place, all students, staff, and visitors (regardless of accessibility needs or disability status) should be able to benefit from their implementation. This ensures that everyone remains safe during the incident.
At Eastern DataComm, we’ve been helping to protect schools and districts for decades. Along the way, we’ve developed our Lockdown Emergency Notification System (LENS+OPTICS). LENS + OPTICS is a comprehensive notification platform that integrates with your school’s phone, paging, and access control systems. You can activate the system at the push of a button, by dialing a code from a campus phone, or by using a special application on your smartphone. Once activated, emergency communication is fast and automatic, drastically reducing the risk of human error.
To ensure everyone on campus is aware of the lockdown in progress, LENS sends pre-recorded announcements over the PA system, activates LED beacons and signboards, makes calls to cell phones and desk phones, delivers PC pop-ups, emails, text messages, and prerecorded calls to law enforcement and first responders. It also integrates with video surveillance and access control systems for added security, creating a full picture of what is going on and where it is occurring during an emergency event. OPTICS provides continuous monitoring of components that influence the system health of LENS so you don’t lose focus on your school’s safety.
When we implement a LENS + OPTICS solution in a school building or across a school district, we take a collaborative and diagnostic approach. This ensures a right fit with the unique needs of the school campus, seamless integration with existing technology, effective communication with local resources like the police, and a truly comprehensive approach to removing the potential for human error during an emergency situation.
Connect with Us to Enhance Your School’s Safety and Security
If you’d like to learn more about how Eastern DataComm can help enhance the safety and physical security of your school district, municipality, or business, schedule a complimentary safety consultation with us today.