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Panic Buttons Shouldn’t Be Your Only Campus Security Solution

Duress alarms must integrate with access control, video surveillance and other systems to be truly effective.

Most of us are painfully aware there’s no panacea or quick fix for the challenges of campus security. Incident after incident at elementary, secondary and post-secondary campuses continue to drive home the reminder that safety requires constant focus and vigilance. However, proponents of proactive intervention and prevention agree that situational awareness is the key to ensuring that our children and their schools are as safe as possible.

Situational awareness includes integrating disparate warning systems, such as access control and video surveillance, and ensuring detailed alerts go to the right communication channels to facilitate the appropriate response in ANY situation – not just 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 is possible and automatically setting in motion a plan for response.

As with other proposed remedies, arming teachers and administrators with weapons is unlikely to be effective – this still allows far too much margin for human error. By the same token, it’s also ineffective to “arm” school personnel with a panic button and nothing else. A one-stop “panic” button only triggers a single type of alert regardless of the situation. And panic is a state of mind we aim to eliminate; duress is a more appropriate moniker. Regardless, panic button installations on school campuses are making headlines across the nation.

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Use of a panic button – fixed or mobile – essentially implies that an emergency situation is imminent and provides the teacher very limited options for requesting immediate help. Teachers at this point are probably trapped inside the classroom or other compromised area. They are most likely with students and unable to move to a safe location. The safe evacuation of students requires a reliable escape route, safe passage and a secure area for relocation.

If schools were armed with mobile dashboards that offered detailed information about any given situation, imagine how much easier and safer the process of making reactive decisions would be. Smartphones integrated with an automated alerting engine is one such technology solution. This type of system integrates with existing alarm and communication infrastructure to transmit voice, text and video alerts to and from school personnel, expediting appropriate responses and allowing teachers to move students into a safer environment.

An integrated response system 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 any time something 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 are minimized.

Keeping teachers and administrators armed with up-to-the minute information enables better decision-making and a safer safety strategy. School personnel then could move more quickly to diffuse a potential crisis and protect their students and themselves.

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Mike MacLeod is the president of Status Solutions.

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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