This blog post is not meant to be alarmist. We sincerely hope that the kind of situations we use for illustration never happen in your school, or any school. But the realities we now live with require conscientious planning and forethought to give our children and staff the safest environment possible.

School safety is on everyone’s mind these days. There’s nothing we want more than to know that our children are safe while they’re out of our sight. Unfortunately, that is not a guarantee, no matter where you live or the precautions you take.

Emergencies Are Rare

While emergencies are rare, we are responsible for preparing for the worst-case scenarios. The emergency at your school isn’t necessarily a national headline-making event. But every threat to school safety should be taken seriously. Whatever the emergency, all parties need to be ready to react quickly and effectively.

From our experience with schools and vendors in the security market, we have found that technology can have a limiting or empowering effect on a staff’s ability to respond to emergency situations. In general, a security system that is digitally connected, flexible, and remotely accessible becomes stronger than the sum of its parts.

Click the button below to view a review our School Safety Checklist. Do you notice any gaps that you’d like to address? Our experienced team of technology professionals can help you design and implement an IP-based solution that works for you and your school.

School Safety Grant Program

Before we get into specifics on some of our top security solutions, we wanted to make sure you are aware of the 2019 Michigan State Police Competitive School Safety Grant Program:

“In an effort to create safe and secure learning environments, the Michigan Legislature has provided a $25 million appropriation for the Michigan State Police (MSP), Grants and Community Services Division (GCSD), to provide and administer competitive grants to public or nonpublic schools, school districts, and intermediate school districts (ISDs), to improve the safety and security of students, staff, and school buildings through the purchase of technology and equipment.” (Summary, Grant Application Guide)

The application period opened on February 1st. Applications are due by March 1st. If you’d like to apply for funding from this grant, a Macro Connect team member would be very happy to come in for a complimentary strategy session to help you design the right system for your grant application. There are eleven categories for eligible technology and equipment. Keep reading for information on the technology solutions with which our team can best assist.

Intercom & Public Address Systems

Grant Application Categories F & I

These two categories include voice or video systems allowing two-way connection with office personal. They also include visual notification enhancements like colored or strobe lights to alert students and staff to danger.

Almost all schools have a public address system that can be used to communicate from the office to classrooms and other spaces throughout the building. But in most schools, this is only a one-way system and/or the same message goes out to everyone at once regardless of where they are in the building. A stronger, more modern system allows for both two-way communication and targeted communication.

Older PA Systems vs. Modern PA Systems

Centralized One-Way PA Systems Remotely Access, Flexible, Two-Way Communication Systems
On an older system, the message would have to come from the office. If you’ve evacuated, no one will be there to broadcast those messages. On a modern system, you can communicate remotely. After an evacuation, you can still broadcast message to those who may be trapped inside.
On an older system, information or instructions go to the whole building at once, alerting an active shooter to your plans. On a modern system, you can isolate messages. You can block out messages to keep an aggressor in the dark and send targeted messages to those who have not yet evacuated.
On an older system, you send the same message to every classroom, meaning Kindergarten students would hear the same information as older students which may be inappropriate. On a modern system, you can send different messages to different classrooms to give more specific instructions or to provide age-appropriate instructions.
On an older system, trapped teachers and students rely on cell phones to communicate outside of their classroom. On a modern system, trapped teachers and students are able to communicate with the outside world without relying on cell phones.
An older system is unlikely to connect with visual notifications like strobe lights, forcing you to use audio commands, leaving the hearing impaired at a disadvantage. A modern system connects to a network of visual notifications to offer silent signals that keep the hearing impaired informed.

Our partners at Audio Enhancement have an outstanding solution called the EPIC System™ (Education Paging & Intercom Communications). This system includes two-way intercom with every classroom and emergency nonfiction capabilities. Take a look at their site and watch the video below to see if it inspires new ideas for your school.

Intercom & Public Address Systems

Grant Application Category H

This category includes systems that are designed to initiate lock-down protocols and/or notify law enforcement officials and emergency services. It also include systems with remote or wireless activation devices that include location tracking capabilities.

These days, most schools have lock-down procedures in place but initiating them is largely analog. Staff make announcements over the PA. A stronger, more modern system allows whichever staff member who notices a threat to student safety to trigger the system immediately.

Older Lockdown Protocol vs. Modern Alert Systems

Manual Lockdown Protocol Automated, Remote Actuated Panic Button/Alert System
In an older system, doors must be locked by hand and emergency responders must be called by someone in the building which consumes valuable time. A modern system locks doors immediately after the alert is triggered and automatically notifies first responders instantly.
In an older system, you may know that an issue exists but not where the problem is. In a modern system, any teacher can trigger the alert and the system shows where they are on a building map.
In an older system, a lockdown requires audible notification, tipping off aggressors, allowing them to make a run for it or accelerate their attack. In a modern system, panic buttons can be silent and discreet, triggering the system, keeping a shooter one step behind.
In an older system, a power failure may prevent communications from getting throughout the school creating potential for a disaster. In a modern system, the panic buttons and alert notifications can operate on a dedicated UPS to provide uptime even when your main power source is out.

Again, our partners at Audio Enhancement have a superb security product called SAFE System™ (Signal Alert For Education). This product is an alert and notification solution that connects teachers and classrooms to first responders for quick response and communication.

Signage

Grant Application Category J

This category includes interior and exterior identification for rooms, windows, exits, hallways, and stairwells. All schools have signs for classroom numbers and emergency exits, but they’re typically static. And even if you have some digital signs, they may not be integrated into your security operations plan. Modern, connected digital signage can be changed to add visual distress signals to your communication capabilities during an emergency.

Older Static Signage vs. Modern Digital Signage

Static Signage Digital Signage
Static signs only say one thing. Once they’re printed or manufactured, that’s it. Digital signage can change. Exit signs near the shooter can be changed to display a template or custom emergency warning. Stairwell signs near a fire can be updated to send people elsewhere.
Disconnected signs have to be manually updated and managed during an emergency. Connected signage can be pre-programmed before an emergency or updated easily throughout a situation to silently share updated information.

Our partners at SAFARI Montage have a great Digital Signage product that allows you to quickly and easily manage digital signage throughout your school. Check out their Endpoint solution.

Security Camera Systems & Components

Grant Application Category K

The final category includes security camera systems and components. Every school, large and small, should carefully design their security strategy around the size of their building and staffing capabilities. For example, larger schools may have the resources to employ a dedicated security staff member. A smaller school may want to rely on automated notification technologies.

We understand that many schools may not have the budget to install video surveillance systems in every corridor or location. But it’s something that can be built over time. Begin with the highest priority areas like entrances/exits and progress toward a full surveillance network. It’s important to understand the benefits of a closed-circuit security camera network as well as their limitations. That includes restricted sharing capabilities. Newer, connected systems store footage in the cloud. That allows schools greater flexibility to give authorities visibility into the school during an emergency.

Older CC Video Systems vs. Modern Cloud-Based Systems

Closed Circuit Video Surveillance Cloud Connected Video Surveillance
Older camera systems may not be natively encrypted and firewall protected from unauthorized access. Modern camera systems are encrypted to protect school information and protected by a strong firewall to keep out unauthorized users.
Older camera systems are only accessible from a computer on the dedicated network inside the school. In an active shooter situation, someone must stay behind, or you will be blind to the ongoing status. Modern camera systems are remotely accessible so that administrators and police can monitor what’s happening inside from anywhere, during and after an emergency.
Older camera systems may not provide automated indexing or alerts based on motion inside a school. Intruders may go undetected for quite some time. Modern camera systems can notify authorities if unusual movement is detected, preventing further escalations and triggering early intervention.
Older camera systems require bulky server infrastructure that can be complex, requires regular maintenance, and creates storage limitations. Modern camera system infrastructure is highly scalable, utilizing the cloud for easy maintenance, storage updates, and indexing.

Our partners at Verkada have a wide range of security cameras and camera management systems for indoor and outdoor applications. Get a free, instant demo sent to your inbox.

Get Started Now

It’s worth repeating that we hope your school never experiences an emergency. These security systems should always be a “just in case” solution. But with so much at stake in every school emergency, it’s important to take every risk, no matter how small, seriously. If you haven’t already, click here to view our School Safety Checklist.

If you notice any gaps that you’d like to fill, or want help designing a grant application, please give us a call. We’d love to help you make your school a safer learning and working environment for everyone.