How to find the best software to prevent school shootings
While the Columbine High School massacre in 1999 was not the first school shooting this country had experienced, it suddenly made us much more aware of the terrible potential for harm at school facilities. The event was the impetus for a new generation of software-based security systems developed to help prevent or mitigate tragedies at schools. In 2012, after the unthinkable happened and 20 young children and six adult staff members were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School, another wave of software-based security systems appeared on the market. Since that time, there has been a continuing trend towards using software to help expedite response time and to mitigate and/or eliminate violent incidents in schools.
In the years since 1999 and 2012, many things have changed. School shooters appear to be planning attacks well in advance, often using automatic weapons which enables them to make the maximum impact in the shortest amount of time. Because school shooters have become somewhat savvy to various security measures that may impede or stop them, they realize that they have only seconds and not minutes to do harm, making the process of stopping them through technology more challenging than ever. Yesterday’s solutions simply cannot stay ahead of today’s violent intentions or acts.
When evaluating options for school safety software solutions such as visitor management or incident management systems, it is imperative to invite and empower the IT professionals that support facility operations to be part of the decision-making process. The reason for this is that only a multi-platform, cloud-based system can react swiftly enough to send mass notifications to all stakeholders. Older systems are often limited and will not integrate with every platform including Macs, PCs, iOS mobile, and Android mobile; they can also be inadequate when it comes to speed and response rates. IT professionals will already have a complete understanding of this and will help to ensure that you get a system that is fully functional for your needs. Further, those IT professionals were likely part of the team involved in the installation and implementation of existing access control, surveillance, alarm, panic button, and/or door-locking systems, so they will be most familiar with them. Integrating these systems with new risk-mitigation software takes skill and attention to detail.
If you are ready to install a new or upgraded visitor and/or incident management system, or if you only have a visitor management system without an integrated incident management system, it is imperative that you take the following points into consideration:
1. Integration between visitor and incident management systems
“Integrated” is the key word here because this means that if there is a visitor-related threat or emergency incident, the visitor management system will invoke the incident management system (i.e. the virtual alarm system) and send out silent, immediate, mass notifications to mitigate or completely stop an attack.
2. Two-way communication
In the case of a visitor-related threat or emergency, it is very important for the person “on the front line” (i.e., SRO, Police Officer, or any staff member) be in contact with the authorities who are coordinating the response, and that they remain calm and not let the potential perpetrator know that they have been identified as a threat. A visitor management system with a communication system built in enables the involved parties to communicate silently, helping ensure that the incident does not escalate.
3. Multiple communication methods
To be effective, two-way communications must reach their target and be seen. However, many people have become conditioned to ignore the overload of beeps, pings and other notifications we get from our devices constantly. With that in mind, a visitor and incident management system must be able to send stakeholders mass notifications across multiple communication methods including email, text (SMS), mobile push notifications and web (computer-based) push notifications – otherwise we take the risk that someone important may not be notified. Any visitor and incident management system that does not include all four of these communication methods is not adequate.
4. Cloud-based, multi-platform system
This means that you can use ANY hardware to utilize the software. A multi-platform system will allow you to use Macs, PCs, iOS (iPhones or iPads), or Android devices (phones or tablets) to send mass notifications in the case of non-emergency and emergency incidents. This also means that computers can be hard-wired to Internet connectivity or use WiFi; mobile devices can use WiFi or cell service, utilizing all aspects of cloud communications in the case of a threat or an emergency. Remember, speed is essential in the case of an emergency. When all stakeholders across all devices are notified in near-real time, you can substantially improve reaction time.
The decision to upgrade your visitor management system to an integrated visitor and incident management system – or to get your very first visitor and incident management system – is a very important decision that needs to be well thought out. When you take the above points into consideration, you can ensure you are doing your best to mitigate or eliminate threats to those in your care.
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Robin Baker oversees the design and development of SilverShield, a cloud-based Visitor & Emergency Management System, and was also instrumental in ARMS, an anti-piracy security application for the safety of ships and crews at sea. In addition, Robin was also the founder of Learning Today, now known as iReady. Robin works with Schools, as well as Security and Software Development Teams internationally to improve the safety and security of schools today. American Heritage School of Plantation and Boca/Delray has adopted SilverShield and can speak about its effectiveness on their campus as well.
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