Over the past few decades, schools have needed to branch out from their primary focus on reading, writing, and arithmetic, and the reason why is clear: The kids — and the wider educational environment — are not alright. Though the National Institute of Justice notes that, “nationally, school crime rates have decreased since the early 1990s,” the actual numbers paint a more sobering picture. The Institute of Education Sciences’ 2019 “Indicators of School Crime and Safety” report revealed that, for the period from July 1, 2016, through June 30, 2017, 42 people died violently on a school property and 836,100 in total suffered from theft or non-fatal violence at school.
Such stark numbers and a spate of highly publicized school shootings has led administrators and school boards to ask about ways to improve school security and to seek out technology to keep schools safe. This post will highlight some of the most popular and effective public and private school security systems, as well as additional considerations that decision makers should know about.
Vital Features the Best Security Systems Have
Given the importance of safeguarding students and faculty, as well as the many threats they can face, many decision makers can find designing or improving a school security system to be a daunting task. It’s easy to see why.
For instance, according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, “active shooter situations are often over within 10 to 15 minutes,” a period so short that such incidents are often over before law enforcement can even arrive on the scene. And while the U.S. Department of Justice’s National Institute of Justice reports that “today’s students are less likely to be threatened or injured with a weapon, including a gun, at school than they were 10 years ago,” it also states that “about half of children in the United States experience a traumatic event in childhood, and many of these events happen at school.” They may “be threatened or injured by a weapon, be bullied, or be impacted by natural disasters, fires, or pandemics.”
This section will detail four of the most vital features that school security equipment should have, specific equipment and specific ways of using it that will most benefit your campus.
Strategically Placed, High-Quality Surveillance
The school security industry has done a good job touting the benefits of CCTV cameras in schools, and the National Center for Education Statistics states that 83.8 percent of high schoolers reported seeing cameras around their school. However, it’s not enough to simply have school cameras in classrooms or around the campus. They need to be the right kinds of cameras installed in the right places.
Consider that many of the places where security incidents occur involve locations that aren’t surveilled. Thieves may target assets affixed to or stored in rooftops, athletic storage, computer labs, HVAC slabs, and nurse’s offices. Additionally, extant cameras may overlap in coverage or fail to surveil common problem areas such as the corners of exterior structures or within school offices.
Next, the cameras connected to your surveillance system need to have a high enough resolution to easily identify victims or perpetrators. This particularly matters with incidents that may require swift intervention or possible court action, such as bullying incidents, vandalism, or vehicular damage.
Finally, all thee school safety systems you have installed need to integrate with your surveillance system, meaning that the various parts ought to communicate their data to each other and react appropriately. (See the “Integrative Cloud Hosting, Analytics, and Management” section below for more discussion about integrative surveillance.)
Access Control That Manages Limited Means of Ingress
When experts discuss how to curtail violent crime on campus, one of their top recommendations is to restrict who can enter and exit a building. One of the easiest ways to achieve this is by installing an access control system paired with photo ID coded key cards. This allows students and faculty to scan themselves through secured doors, as well as providing a visual cue as to who should belong on site.
Another important step when installing an access control system involves limiting the number of entrances through which people can pass. While this may seem inconvenient, it serves as a safeguard against mass shootings and other kinds of violent crime.
In order to avoid school security issues, students and faculty must also receive proper training. The most sophisticated and best implemented access control system won’t do any good if credentialed individuals hold the door for those without key cards.
Responsive, Carefully Situated Alarms
Many potential tragedies can be averted or minimized with the implementation of integrated alarm systems. (See the next section for more details.) During an active shooter situation or natural disaster such as a fire, hurricane, or tornado, a functional alarm system performs multiple tasks. It lets students and faculty know about the presence of an ongoing emergency. It can lock down a campus. And it alerts the proper authorities.
The difference between an effective and ineffective alarm system lies in the implementing of said systems, namely placing them in easy-to-access locations and having them respond to appropriate data. Depending on your school’s location and situation, you may want to consider linking your alarms to:
- In-office panic buttons
- Seismic sensors
- Thermal sensors
- Glass-break sensors
Integrative Cloud Hosting, Analytics, and Management
Perhaps the most important part of a school security system is getting all of its disparate elements to link up. For example, in a properly functioning system:
- A triggered school alarm that occurs during an active shooter situation ought to prompt the access control system to lock all doors
- A surveillance system ought to store the license plates of all recorded vehicles and safely store them on- or off-site for later retrieval
- A smoke sensor that detects a fire should alert administrators and appropriate authorities
In order to achieve such interconnectedness, your subsystems must be compatible and connected through a web-based management and analytics platform.
Other Safety and Access Considerations
Finding the Right Security System
So what exactly is the right security system? What should it do for your campus? And how can you know that you’ve found it? In short, while a school security system should incorporate the points mentioned above, it needs to function in a modular fashion. Schools aren’t static entities, and your security ought not to be either. Whatever system you select, make sure that the security company you hire ensures that it can accept the addition of more systems and modules in the future.
Why Colleges and Schools Should Improve their Security
Though the Department of Justice’s National Institute of Justice states that “school crime rates are decreasing,” it also admits that “school violence is not new. … The U.S. began collecting national data on school violence in 1989, and a look at school violence research since 1970 suggests that research interest began in earnest in the 1980s. However, school violence is not so much new as it is something that has gained attention in the past 20 years.”
Given that students are precious and school violence has long been a sad reality, you can’t afford to neglect the safety of your campus. Contact AT&I Systems today to learn how we can help.