In the wake of the horrific 2018 school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, a Federal Commission on Safety was established to research and recommend best practice solutions to improve school safety. As part of its final report, the commission recommended a multilayered approach to physical security that addresses the needs of diverse student populations, including students with disabilities.
That’s a recommendation that resonated with officials at the Berkeley Heights (NJ) Public School District.
The district comprises six schools serving approximately 2,500 students in pre-kindergarten through grade 12. Governor Livingston High School is well known throughout the region for its award-winning inclusive education program for deaf, hard of hearing and cognitively impaired students.
The safety of those students was a high priority when the district embarked on a project to improve its emergency notification system in 2019. Officials quickly discovered that longtime technology provider Eastern DataComm could provide the ideal solution.
Meeting Special Needs
Our team at Eastern DataComm, which has been supporting the district’s Mitel phone system for many years, showed officials how its proven Lockdown and Emergency Notification System (LENS) could be integrated with the phone system to boost security across the district’s six school buildings. Best of all, the system could easily be customized to meet the unique requirements of its hearing-impaired population.
In a recent case study, Mike Skara, the technology coordinator for Berkeley Heights Schools, noted that most notification systems are highly reliant on horns, loudspeakers and public address notifications to warn students, teachers and staff of an emergency. The district would need a system that featured more visual alerts for students in the high school’s deaf and hard-of-hearing program.
Our engineering specialists at Eastern DataComm accounted for such scenarios when originally designing the LENS solution. In addition to generating emergency notifications over phones, intercoms and loudspeakers, the system integrates strobe lights and LED signage to deliver visual cues. Accommodating Berkeley Heights’ special requirements only involved adding additional signs and lights in the high school’s classrooms and common areas such as the cafeteria.
Multiple Methods of Communication
EDC further customized the system to integrate with the school district’s Google G Suite collection of cloud-based tools that enable digital communication and collaboration between students and teachers. That creates additional avenues for delivering emergency notifications with alerts transmitted by phone, text and email. Additionally, notifications can be designated for distinct audiences in different buildings.
There was no guesswork with the LENS solution, either. Eastern DataComm has implemented LENS in hundreds of K-12 schools and municipalities in the New York/New Jersey Tri-State area.
“It’s a well-designed solution that was already being widely used, so it was pretty clear it would check off all the boxes for us,” said Skara. “Plus, Eastern DataComm was able to customize it for our particular needs.”
School safety and security solutions must account for the needs of all students, and provide for multiple modes of communication with administrators, staff, teachers, first responders and law enforcement. Eastern DataComm’s LENS solution prepares schools to respond rapidly in any emergency.