Thinking Beyond the Panic Button for School Safety

Every hospital has an infant abduction system because infants have been kidnapped from nurseries, and senior living communities are required to install appropriate life safety systems such as nurse call. Does this mean our lives only have value when we’re babies or seniors but not in between? Of course not.

For a full life cycle of protection, we also must look after our daycare centers, K-12 schools, and colleges and universities. At a minimum, they all should be equipped with duress alerting so help can be summoned urgently and with discretion so as to avoid escalating a potentially dangerous situation. But “panic buttons” as most people call them, won’t solve our school’s safety and security challenges in and of themselves. 

When I founded Status Solutions in 2001, post-Columbine, K-12 schools were a primary focus because of my past experience with the market and the need for emergency alerting and response that had so tragically emerged. But the default reaction was to increase the number of police officers or merely install video surveillance cameras. Again, these aren’t bad ideas, but they don’t provide complete situational awareness.

Situational awareness includes integrating all disparate warning systems, such as duress alerting, access control and video surveillance, and ensuring detailed alerts go to the right communication channels to facilitate the appropriate response in ANY situation – not limited to those situations that have happened in the past, those that are deemed “likely” to happen, or those that might be prevented. It means having as much real-time information as possible and automatically setting in motion a plan for response.

An integrated alarm management and response system like SARA also helps to remove human emotion from the equation, ensuring that information dissemination and reactions are rational, practical and effective. This is an important consideration anytime anything goes wrong – from a gunman to a blown fuse. Letting technology do its job ensures that the right people are alerted, the right plan is implemented, and interruptions in information flow are minimized.

When I was young, seats belts were just these annoying contraptions you sometimes sat on. And while the best air bag is the one that is undeployed, all cars come with them now. My sincere hope is that we as a society are ready to arm our teachers and administrators with up-to-the-minute information so they can make the best decisions to protect their students and themselves.

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