On Tuesday morning, the Today Show ran a segment on the 'safest school in America': Southwestern High School in Indiana. The technology, planning and scope are truly impressive, and the proactive approach to ensuring the safety of our students is something we openly promote and embrace. High tech security systems for schools are growing in both popularity and implementation, but we also believe that school safety and security begins with a much more practical and affordable approach.
The safest schools in America are the schools that begin their security measures by focusing on developing a well thought-out emergency protocol. In the Today Show video, one of the small details mentioned exemplifies how school safety should begin with good planning. When the teacher initiates the lockdown procedure, students gather behind a red line spanning the back of the classroom. This line shows the boundary where classroom occupants must be in order to not be seen by the intruder through the classroom window. This is a great example of a well-planned emergency protocol. Other examples could include the designation of lockdown areas for anyone outside a classroom, or simply turning off the classroom lights when the emergency protocol is initiated. All the bells and whistles in the world cannot take the place of a well-planned and thoughtful protocol.
The other crucial step that safety-oriented schools are taking is response time by law enforcement and first responders. Having a system that helps decrease response time is critical to increasing safety in our schools and other public places. It starts with developing clear communication with local law enforcement. Police are trained to handle threats like armed intruders, so communicating closely with these professionals in advance can help schools create the best emergency protocols internally, as well as externally for potential first responders. The goal is to be as comprehensive as possible with the approach to school safety and security, and utilizing the community resources available can greatly aid in that pursuit.
Increased attention to generating faster response times from law enforcement in the event of an armed intruder in a school is the cornerstone of a good Rapid Emergency Response System (RERS). The security system implemented in Southwestern High School features an "alert" switch that can be activated inside the classroom to signal law enforcement if the children inside are safe or in need of assistance. There are a few other systems on the market that utilize a similar feature, but the outcome is the most important: How can schools quickly notify law enforcement to ensure rapid response times in a crisis scenario? These systems remove the need for placing a phone call to dispatch and then trying to relay crucial information in a crisis situation. Instead, the simple activation of a Rapid Emergency Response System (RERS) station - in the classroom or strategically around the building - or the use of an mobile device (panic button, fob) worn by a teacher, can automatically notify law enforcement, speeding the response time.
A further consideration for a safety-oriented school is the use of a two-way communications system that can be activated in the event of lockdown procedures. Teachers, administrators and other faculty members should have the ability to communicate with law enforcement if the school is in lockdown, and vice versa. Law enforcement and first responders can greatly benefit from this communication capability by letting select building occupants know the status of the lockdown, additional information about the intruder, or strategic considerations. Today, these two-way communication systems can be hosted in a web portal that also provides links to live camera feeds, building layouts and other critical information like our Command & Control system.
The unfortunate reality is that all of these systems - no matter how useful - can have a significant price tag associated with them. The system mentioned in the news clip was more than 10 times the cost of our average system. The team at BluePoint has put a great deal of effort into keeping our systems affordable while maintaining all of the features required of a true life-safety system. Our kids safety and security is incredibly important, but it doesn't have to - and shouldn't - cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to protect them.
It's refreshing to see so many schools around the country not only taking a serious look at safety and security, but proactively taking steps to implement systems and protocols that can help ensure that our students can focus on learning, rather than worrying about personal safety. We always advocate for awareness and preparedness, and we encourage anyone interested in learning more about affordable school safety and security to contact us for more information.