Violence in schools has been headline news for much of 2022. As of August 1st, Education Week reported 27 school shootings in the United States this year alone – a staggering statistic that has school officials seeking approaches to protect students, teachers and staff in a scalable and efficient manner. As a result, many are turning to security technology to keep their schools safe.
Investing in physical security technology is a smart and necessary step for school officials to take. There are numerous benefits that technologies like video surveillance, internet monitoring, shot detection solutions and entry scanners can offer schools. As a security vendor, we believe that when applied and implemented properly, these technologies are an important piece of the security puzzle.
However, as our CEO, Peter Evans, points out in his recent article in THE Journal, many school officials are making investments in technologies that don’t address the specific problems correctly. It’s understandable – students and staff face a growing number of threats, from weapons threats and intruder scenarios to fights and drug-related incidents. Officials are under scrutiny to address school safety on every front, with an appropriately heightened focus on protecting schools from mass casualty events.
As more districts turn to technology to help keep schools safe, there are several questions that officials should ask to ensure proper application and outcomes:
- How will this technology fit into my overall security strategy?
The unfortunate reality is that technology is not the cure-all fix for the gun violence epidemic that schools, and the country, are facing. While it plays an important role in addressing certain threats, technology needs to be part of a broader strategy that includes a combination of personnel and detailed procedures and processes. For example, technology today cannot prevent someone from walking into a school with a weapon; but solutions like artificial intelligence (AI)-based video surveillance can alert staff of a person holding a weapon on approach to the school and buy school leaders precious time when reacting to, or preemptively preventing, the threat. In this example, the role of personnel and the implementation of procedures that follow the identification of a threat are just as important as the technology itself. Understanding what technology can and cannot do is critical to fitting into your overall strategy.
- What is the problem we are trying to solve?
The answer to this question might seem obvious: “We’re trying to decrease violence in our schools.” Violence can occur in a variety of ways. It’s important for officials to understand and identify the specific threats that their schools are most likely to face and to choose security solutions that are specifically designed to address that specific concern. For example, a weapons scanner at the entryway can detect people bringing weapons into a building, but it is ineffective against an individual with malicious and specific intent – this attacker will walk right through an entry scanning system. Different problems require different thinking and different technology solutions. That’s why it’s important for officials to understand and prioritize the threats they are trying to protect against.
- What resources will be needed to deploy and maintain this new technology?
Aside from the financial component of investing in technology, implementing and managing new technology requires a host of resources that are important to consider in understanding a solution’s true cost. Most security solutions require dedicated personnel to monitor, maintain and act on alerts when necessary. This is particularly true with entry weapons scanners. It’s one thing to find a weapon, but what do you do in response to an alert once you find one? Addressing these types of issues generally requires an integrated approach of people and processes, and school officials should plan to fully work out these issues before making a technology decision.
The rise in violent incidents in schools is both concerning and complex, but unfortunately, it’s part of society’s new reality. Technology can act as an impactful piece of the puzzle when implemented appropriately. Specifically, AI is a technology that can make an immediate impact for schools. In addition to AI-enabled gateway scanners stopping guns and other weapons from being brought into schools, video-based AI can be cost-effectively applied over existing video surveillance systems and can be trained to detect a variety of threats, from fights to the presence of a firearm both inside and outside the school. AI also provides valuable information that can be helpful to outside police, firefighters and other responders.
To learn more about security solutions from Patriot One, reach out to our team.