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Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Leverage technology to accelerate response to school violence: RPT

Schools are spending a great deal of money on security products. Still, according to a new report from Parks Associates, not enough thought is being given to how products can be harnessed to better respond to violence in schools.

The Addison, Texas, market research and consulting firm noted in its report that while schools have encouraged the use of access control practices, teacher credentials, and security cameras for nearly 20 years, the measures have not been able to adequately protect schools from violence.

Citing statistics from the School Crime and Safety Survey, the report says that during the 2017-18 school year, 71% of schools experienced at least one violent incident and 21% experienced a serious violent incident. The National Center for Education Statistics released similar figures for the 2019-20 school year.

“While these data points come from different organizations, the numbers show a 4% increase in serious violent incidents even though the use of surveillance cameras, access control and other security systems on school grounds are at an all-time high. historical,” wrote the authors Parks President and CMO Elizabeth Parks and Research Intern August Ward.

“Schools are spending a lot of money on security products, but they’re not doing a great job of thinking about the response,” said Mark Hatten, CEO of Mutualink, a Wallingford, Conn.-based provider of interoperability security solutions.

“All of those security products produce evidence after the fact. They have not been coordinated or thought out for a response,” Hatten told TechNewsWorld.

Better access control

The report noted that the evolution of school safety technology is providing increasingly capable assistance to first responders.

“Advanced technologies quickly give first responders a lot of additional information about what’s going on in the environment without relying on humans to relay that information,” Parks told TechNewsWorld.

Access control systems allow people to skip the step of keeping track of locked doors, the report explains. Access control systems allow people not to worry if the doors are locked.

In the Uvalde tragedy, he added, a normally closed school door was left open, allowing the gunman to easily enter. A machine lock system could have prevented that.

The report indicated that advances in artificial intelligence and machine learning could also speed up response times. AI and ML can identify suspicious activity, spot dangerous items, recognize patterns, and organize data and evidence, he continued. These are powerful skills for improving safety and response times, particularly when it can occur without operator assistance.

However, Parks argued that automation should not be a substitute for human intervention. “Technology and automation should be used not to replace humans, but to give humans better information so humans can better respond,” she said.

ZeroEyes technology

However, Dot Blackwell, superintendent of Vassar Public Schools in Vassar, Michigan, believes school safety technology is less effective at addressing violence issues when it relies on staff to monitor or manage it.

Vassar Public Schools, located 45 minutes from Oxford High School, the scene of a November 2021 mass shooting in which four students were killed and seven people injured, including a teacher, recently installed a new security system called ZeroEyes.

ZeroEyes works with existing video surveillance systems in a school to identify firearms. It can alert first responders to a potential threat within three to five seconds, although a threat image must be approved by humans before being sent to the proper authorities.

“ZeroEyes technology is the first product discovered by our school district that offered an innovative way to monitor movements within our building and in our parking lots that could provide us with precious life-saving minutes,” Blackwell told TechNewsWorld.

press the panic button

Another technology cited in the report is panic devices that allow unexplained emergencies to be reported. In some cases, technology is more efficient and effective than humans.

Mutualink can enhance the information sent to first responders from devices such as panic buttons.

“When you press a panic button, within about four seconds, the floor plan of the school with the camera footage is sent to the police,” Hatten explained.

“The fact is that if someone wants to cause harm, they are likely to walk into a school,” he said.

“When security products designed to keep intruders out of the school don’t, Mutualink can instantly share information from those products with law enforcement.”

Hatton added, “Mutualink turns everyday security products into effective response products.”

Technologies need to work together

Personal emergency response systems are also cited in the report. He explained that PERS devices allow school staff to simply press a button to communicate with first responders when needed. According to the report, technology can improve and simplify response times, which is one of the biggest issues with active threats on campuses.

One of the benefits of the devices cited in the report is their low cost, which is why they are most often used in schools. However, one challenge with this technology and security systems in general is false alarms.

According to Parks’ research, about half of security homeowners say their security system sets off too many false alarms. Additionally, 62% of home security equipment owners report experiencing a false alarm in the past 12 months, and nearly 10% report experiencing more than five false alarms in the past year.

The report noted that multiple technologies must work together to effectively secure a school. Every school is different in design, population size, and funding, which means one set of security solutions won’t work for everyone. Each state, he continued, has different regulations and subsidy systems for their schools, which in turn makes it difficult for security companies to integrate nationally.

Time will tell how these new technologies work, Parks’ report predicted. School safety technology is advantageous, but more metrics are currently needed to assess technology used for school safety. He pointed out that technology cannot guarantee impeccable defense against security breaches and threats. Still, it can help reduce the chance of a dangerous situation occurring and create efficiencies in emergency response.

“How do we stop school violence is a million dollar question,” Parks said. “I don’t know if we have the answer yet. But we can have the best response to any threat in a school to protect the children there.”

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