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Lockdown drills have become a commonplace practice for school security in the U.S. Over 98% of public schools held a lockdown drill for the 2019-2020 school year, helping students, staff, and responders familiarize themselves with emergency procedures.

Lockdowns are a good tool to train communities how to respond to emergencies, but they should be just one part of a broader, more comprehensive security framework that includes prevention methods.

In October 2022, the Department of Justice awarded nearly $190M in grants to support school safety. Schools now have an opportunity to adopt stronger strategies and new technologies to keep schools a safe place where students can flourish.

What A Multifaceted School Security Strategy Entails

A comprehensive school security strategy is one that brings together the community at large to prevent and handle emergency situations appropriately as they unfold using the following tools:

Physical Security

Classic methods of security involve physical security: keeping the right people and the right things in or out of the school building. A majority 97% of schools in the US have controlled access to buildings during school hours, while only 28% have random sweeps for contraband and 6% conduct random metal detector checks.

Some schools employ security guards to stand at the school entrance or in hot spots for bullying, like hallways and stairwells, the cafeteria, or outside on school grounds.

Physical security strategies are typically reactive to threats versus proactive, so they are best supported by technologies like surveillance cameras with AI-assisted technologies like Vyze, which can alert security teams to threats faster than humans alone.

Emergency Preparedness

Emergencies, by nature, are unplanned. Have an Emergency Operations Plan (a document that outlines how your school will prepare, respond, and recover from an emergency) to minimize the potential of being blindsided.

An effective EOP describes what students, teachers, and staff need to do before, during, and after an emergency event so everyone has a common understanding of the correct procedures. Train staff and faculty, who will provide training and drills for students, on the plan. 

Establish a regular review period to evaluate and update the school EOP at least every two years. Schoolsafety.gov has a helpful guide for developing a high-quality school emergency operations plan as a starting point, as well as an emergency planning resources guide.

Community Engagement

Your EOP is only as strong as the community that creates it. Form a planning team with a wide range of school personnel, including administrators, teachers, school psychiatrists, and community partners (such as law enforcement agencies) to assist with your EOP.

Threat Assessment

Prior to acts of violence, attackers sometimes behave in concerning ways or tell others about their plan. Schools and communities need ways for people to easily and anonymously report their concerns, and a threat assessment in place to evaluate the reports. 

The US Department of Homeland Security has issued the gold standard guide for how to use a threat assessment model, which includes information on how to establish a threat assessment team, define concerning and prohibited behaviors, create a reporting mechanism, determine the threshold for law enforcement intervention, establish assessment procedure, and more.

Proactive School Safety Solutions

Thanks to advanced security systems, machine learning technologies, and virtual anonymous tip lines, today’s schools can be empowered to stop violence before it begins.

Adopt Proactive Threat Assessment Protocols

You may be surprised to know that 90% of school-related homicides involve a single victim. Among single-person homicides in schools with known motives, gang-related activity (58%) and interpersonal disputes (44%) were cited as the most common motives. In such cases, other people (peers, staff members) often will know about plans for a violent attack before it happens. 

This is why an anonymous tip line is imperative. Include follow-up procedures as a part of the process to ensure sufficient information is gathered for assessment.

Follow these best practices for creating proactive threat assessment protocols:

  • Assessment protocols should bring together a diverse team from the school community, including teachers, coaches, parents, counselors, and administrators.
  • Ensure your response framework is simple, action-based, and easily applied to different incidents. 
  • Annually reevaluate the response plan based on data from your school.
  • Recovery from violence and disaster can present challenges long after the actual event. Proactively outlining an action plan for recovery resource allocation (counselors, psychologists, administrators) can aid in the recovery of a hurting community and prevent future incidents.

Implement Advanced Surveillance Systems 

The vast majority (91%) of schools in the U.S. use security cameras. And for good reason — security cameras deter violence, theft, and vandalism. 

In the event of an emergency (active shooter, fire, etc.), real-time video can help emergency responders take control of the situation. After an incident, video footage can be used as part of testimony in court. Many advanced surveillance systems can record infrared light at night and use an intercom system to talk down trespassers or aggressors.

Enhance Access Control Measures

Access control refers to securing the perimeter of a school’s property, including points of entry. At its most basic level, access control eliminates confusion by showing students, staff, and visitors how to enter the building, where to go inside, and how to exit. It also sends a message to all who enter the area: we’re aware of who is supposed to be within these areas.

Good access control has limited access points, well-defined entry routes, good visibility (good lighting and no obstructive landscaping), and a secure lobby. Perimeters are sometimes lined with fences, signs, doors, landscaping, or barriers. Security alarms tell trespassers they’ve gone too far.

Integrate Technology-Driven Solutions for Real-Time Monitoring and Response

Technology solutions such as Vyze™ can help proactively make schools safer by identifying and responding to specific events as they happen, such as an intrusion or weapon on the premises. 

Vyze™ uses the power of machine learning algorithms trained for over 25 years to identify weapons, objects, and human behaviors, like running, fighting, and gathering in large groups.

Vyze™ seamlessly integrates with your school’s existing security system to:

  • Instantly and accurately identify weapons and suspicious objects, such as abandoned backpacks.
  • Detect overcrowding so unauthorized gatherings can be identified and reported.
  • Track armed or dangerous individuals across a network of cameras in real-time.
  • Quickly identify erratic human behavior to identify if a fight breaks out.
  • Use a “virtual fence” to monitor outdoor areas.
  • Detect smoke and heat (even from a person smoking or vaping on the premises) faster than a fire detector.
  • Immediately recognize a car’s license plate even in a busy parking lot, and whether a vehicle is speeding, parking illegally, or obstructing traffic.

It Takes a Village

While lockdowns give students the muscle memory to respond according to a security plan in a crisis, a proactive and comprehensive security framework gives students, staff, and the community at large peace of mind that threats are handled before they become an emergency. Students excel when they feel confident and safe at school. It’s on us to create that environment and ensure a secure space for learning and success.

If you’re interested in enhancing your school’s security protocols, set up an appointment with a sales associate to learn how Vyze ™ is making safe schools the standard, not the dream.

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