By the end of 2022, the U.S. experienced 302 school shootings inside buildings and on school grounds. That was 52 more than in 2021, and a giant increase from the 20 school shootings just a decade earlier. That’s just shootings. School districts also experience bomb threats, anonymous unspecific threats, fights, vandalism, burglaries, etc. That’s just one aspect of emergencies.
Schools also need to have safety measures in place for unexpected events like sudden, damaging storms, earthquakes, or fires. Practice drills can help, but when an actual emergency happens, the tremendous stress can make students and staff members react in unexpected ways. Emergency services need to be able to gain immediate access while searching for kids and adults who may not have evacuated for some reason.
It’s impossible to know how you’ll react in an emergency until it happens. Some may freeze up, while others take action immediately. Technology needs to be in place to ensure staff and students are kept as safe as possible.
Heightened safety during school hours, after hours, and during evening events is critical. Technology is a key component of safety. Here are our education access control tips to ensure a building is kept safe.
Monitor All Outdoor and Indoor Areas
Safe schools are a complex issue, as every school has its own design, layout, and student population. It’s one that starts with proper monitoring. You could have on-site officers, but they’re only able to see what’s going on in their area. When you have multiple floors, buildings, parking areas, and access doors, there’s a lot to monitor. Someone needs to be paying attention, and it’s not a job for one or two people. Security officers can only do so much, so make sure you’re backing them up with security video.
You want cameras that are monitoring all entryways, driveways, sports fields, fence lines, hallways, and large rooms like gyms, theaters, and auditoriums. In larger rooms, you need cameras that provide the widest view. Entryways should be locked at all times and accessible only if a security team or office worker verifies why someone is at the door and that they have a valid reason to gain access.
Video surveillance is important, but so is storage. Your system needs to be set up with storage that’s accessible remotely but also stored locally to prevent accidental deletion, theft, etc.
Have Secure Entry Doors
We touched a little on the entry doors, but there are a few more things to consider. You need to make sure that those doors lock automatically. You can use intercoms and video security cameras to talk to a person and verify their identity before buzzing them in. Have a security officer or maintenance worker complete regular rounds to ensure the doors are shut and haven’t been damaged.
If you have visitors in the school, give them a visitor badge to wear. Make sure they sign in and state where they will be in that same log. If there’s an emergency, you’re responsible for sharing that person’s name and location with emergency crews.
For the entry doors, only a select few should have a key. The smaller number of keys that exist, the lower the chances of a key getting stolen or lost. Only one or two people should be tasked with unlocking doors when students are coming in for the day or leaving for the day.
Four Key Components to a Safer School
There are four key components PMC Wireless uses to build, install, and maintain your campus or school’s security plan.
Detection is important as it’s how your team will see people driving into your campus and approaching doors and windows. As a car enters your parking lot or access road, you could have cameras with the technology to read license plates and identify who is approaching your building. You should have a watchlist of people who are not allowed on campus or on the school grounds and use technology to ID them.
You need security cameras that offer clear footage and features that help identify problems before something happens. Inside cameras should cover all areas to ensure there are no hidden corners or invisible areas on stairwells. Fisheye cameras in large gyms and auditoriums are helpful. Motion sensors are also key. If there is a potential problem, PMC Wireless can set up alerts to your two-way radio so that administrators and key staff are notified instantly.
Students and staff should have access to the building, but others don’t need it without approval. Access controls help with this. You can buzz in people who have a legitimate reason to be in the building and keep unauthorized people out.
Finally, give students and staff access to an app for their phones, tablets, or laptops. They can use the app to anonymously report things they see, hear, or read that they feel are suspicious or concerning.
You have the video footage and surveillance system now, but there’s still a lot to do. Your system needs to be set up to analyze the information that’s there. AI can start paying attention to the usual patterns with staff and students and alert you if something seems off.
The footage the cameras get can be analyzed to look for a specific color of clothing. For example, you receive word that a male student with a red t-shirt may have a knife on him. You can look for males matching that description and pull them aside for questioning.
Analytics can also pinpoint areas where more attention is needed. It could be something that flags the system to pay closer attention to a fence line near the sports fields. You’ll be able to redirect some attention to that area.
If there is an emergency or perceived threat, you need teachers, security staff, maintenance, and administrators to have fluid communications that aren’t experiencing interference. Two-way radios are important. Having technology available to make sure that the messages sent from these radios to laptops, phones, and tablets are also important. If you can send out an emergency message over a landline, that’s also helpful.
In the event of a targeted attack, it’s also important that anything you send out is kept secure. You don’t want to tip off a school shooter to locations of police officers and other emergency personnel. The more channels of communication you have, the better it is for quick response by school personnel, students, emergency services, and administrators.
Often, large brick buildings will have areas where cell service cuts in and out. It’s not ideal. PMC wireless can help enhance cellular coverage to ensure that anyone using a tablet, laptop, or phone to get and respond to messages during an emergency has coverage, no matter where they happen to be hiding or located.
Finally, you need to be able to respond to emergencies quickly and effectively. Mass notifications allow you to quickly share pertinent details with parents, law enforcement, and other emergency personnel. If emergency personnel must respond and enter your school, they need to be able to get access to your control systems. PMC Wireless makes this happen during the design and installation of your school’s security video and technology equipment.
PMC Wireless has more than three decades of expertise in wireless solutions for safer campuses and schools. We’re a Motorola Solutions Safety Reimagined Partner, we’re trained and certified in the design, installation, and maintenance of data, video, and voice solutions for daily school or campus activities and the services needed for emergency situations.
Give us a call or reach PMC Wireless online and arrange a consultation regarding your school safety goals. You need to have equipment that does everything you expect and more, and we work with your budget and needs to make that happen.