Does your Safety, Security and Emergency Preparedness Equipment Work Properly?

Keeping it maintained can saves lives and prevent lawsuits.

As I was driving into the Chicago area yesterday, I encountered yet another broken automated tollbooth. I fed it more than twice the number of quarters yet the light remained red.  With no way to summon assistance and an ever growing line of hapless hostages waiting to be robbed in like fashion, I finally proceeded knowing that I will probably have to pay the penalty for a transgression I did not commit or tie up one of our staff members for hours trying to correct the problem. 

This raises an important point about safety, security and emergency preparedness. While broken automated toll booths inconvenience motorists, hurt tourism and dampen the economy, broken safety, security and emergency preparedness equipment can result in injuries and deaths. I am sure the broken tollbooths I have encountered are probably well made machines and the majority of the ones I have encountered have been extremely efficient at taking my money and then allowing me to pass unmolested. 

The same is usually true with safety equipment. Manufacturers typically produce good quality products these days. They must do so to be competitive and because they are sometimes named in civil actions when safety incidents occur where their products are in use. 

The president of one metal detector company told me that his company had been named in dozens of lawsuits over the years but that they had never settled nor lost a case at trial. They were able to maintain this record because they could document the rigorous testing and quality control measures they had in place.

At the same time, I recently observed security officers using his company’s handheld metal detectors to screen students as they entered a high school. It was pretty obvious to me that one of the units was not working because I heard no alerts when a number of students were being screened. When we pointed this out to the officers, they found that the batteries were dead. 

This is one challenge that campus safety professionals face. The typical campus today has a wide array of safety, security and emergency preparedness technologies and equipment designed to reduce risk. Fire alarm pull stations, emergency backup lighting, security cameras, access control systems, emergency telephones, portable radios, bullhorns, visitor management systems and a host of other life saving components to safety strategies can all become inoperable at times. 

No matter how well designed and manufactured, safety equipment can become accidentally damaged, be vandalized or otherwise cease to operate properly.  Finding ways to keep these valuable components operating properly can be challenging, but it can be done. Campuses must develop periodic assessments using internal personnel and where appropriate, contractors. Finding and correcting the occasional problem can make years of this type of process worthwhile with a single incident.

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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 [email protected]. 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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