Combining Technology and Training Makes Campuses Safer

Cameras, visitor management, metal detectors, emergency notification, ID systems and more save lives.

A child stops breathing in an elementary school classroom.  The teacher has been prepared for this moment with training on rescue breathing as well as evidence-based concepts known as controlled breathing and mental simulation to improve her performance in life and death situations. The teacher issues a room clear command to send her students to a previously designated “buddy room” while pressing a button on a pendant she is wearing. This sends a duress signal to the main office and to the school system police department where others can hear what is being said in the classroom. The office sends well-trained crisis team members to the classroom, calls 9-1-1 and sends someone to meet the ambulance at the front entrance of the school. A dispatcher at the school police department also calls 9-1-1 to verify that an ambulance has been dispatched to the proper location. A school police lieutenant uses the district’s emergency notification system to alert district-wide crisis team members, the superintendent’s office and the public information officer quickly and efficiently.

All of the above campus safety technologies and strategies to improve human performance under crisis conditions are real-world examples of how teachers, campus public safety professionals and administrators are using astounding new technologies to make schools safer. With decades of research and practical application, we now have superior training concepts to help campus employees protect themselves, their colleagues and the students they serve. The concepts that helped a pilot and co-pilot land a commercial airliner on a river saving all souls aboard are now being used to train educators and support staff to save young lives. The progress in the arena of school safety technologies is no less impressive. 

We now have walk through metal detectors that can indicate where on a person’s body metal is located, dramatically improving the speed and reliability of weapons screening. Universities are using camera systems that can recognize patterns of human behavior indicative of danger and many elementary schools are using visitor management systems that can rapidly scan databases of known sexual predators. Student identification cards with microchips are helping keep kids in school while also increasing funding for public school systems that utilize them. School districts are installing interoperable communications systems that allow public safety officials to talk directly with building principals even when they do not have the same types of portable radios, while hospitals prevent the abductions of infants with special alarm systems. 

There are now many school districts where all employees have completed training in the National Incident Management System (NIMS); school bus drivers are trained to spot the indicators that a person may be carrying a gun and secretaries are trained in evidence-based concepts to help them de-escalate irate parents are becoming more common. Often, these same campus organizations are combining these forms of training with access control systems that capture a photograph of a visitor before they are allowed to enter a school, robust emergency warning systems and AEDs.

As lightning strikes at school athletic events kill more people each year than acts of violence on K-12 campuses, inexpensive portable lightning detection meters are becoming far more common place, along with reverse evacuation drills and custom school safety videos and Web training programs for staff.    

From significant decreases in the K-12 homicide rate, to countless “saves” from AEDs, campus officials are making meaningful progress in the reduction of deaths on campus. Part of this success is because proactive campus organizations are increasingly going high-tech with amazing safety technologies and training for their employees and students. The world of education is becoming safer for it.

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Note: The views expressed by guest bloggers and contributors are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, Campus Safety magazine.


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About the Author


Michael Dorn serves as the Executive Director of Safe Havens International, a global non profit campus safety center. During his 30 year campus safety career, Michael has served as a university police officer, corporal, sergeant and lieutenant. He served as a school system police chief for ten years before being appointed the lead expert for the nation's largest state government K-20 school safety center. The author of 25 books on school safety, his work has taken him to Central America, Mexico, Canada, Europe, Asia, South Africa and the Middle East. Michael welcomes comments, questions or requests for clarification at Note: The views expressed by guest bloggers and contributors are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, Campus Safety magazine.

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