10 Sep 2014

Editor Introduction

You can expect to pass through tight security checks in environments, such as airports and government buildings, which are greater targets for terrorist attacks or other forms of violence. You don't expect to pass through the same level of security checks in neighborhood shops and schools.

It's a simple rule that there will be more security systems in places where there's a greater need for them. Generally speaking, there isn't such a high need for very high end security systems in schools...or so most people seem to think. However, when you consider all the recent school-related crimes we've seen in our country in the last 15 years, you're almost forced to think: has the need for better security systems in educational institutions been underestimated? We've asked some of our panellists to comment on how technology could have made a difference in some of the recent school crimes our nation has seen.

Omer Shavit ForeScout Technologies

Security technology can have a significant role in preventing and mitigating the impact of shooting/crime in campuses. Using actionable intelligence solutions, law enforcement agencies can leverage information, such as social media, to identify intentions and prevent the incident from happening in the first place. Once an incident occurred, it is essential to gain situational awareness in the campus's control room and mitigate the impact of the incident. Technologies such as shot spotting, video surveillance, computer assisted dispatch, mass notification, GIS and others that are orchestrated by incident management software will ensure fast and efficient response.

Patrick Fiel PVF Security Consulting

You can pick any school shooting over the past 15 years and know that a thorough risk assessment would have been the best investment to identify and correct security weaknesses before they became a problem. A good risk assessment requires a school security expert to work with campus staff and local law enforcement. The resulting assessment will be the basis for developing a security plan. No single technology will make all the difference when it comes to a dedicated shooter. A plan requires layers of security that begin at the main entrance with video intercoms, door locks and security screens. Inside, schools need panic/duress buttons, a visitor management system, video surveillance, mass notification, background screening of volunteers and vendors, metal detectors (in some cases) and a web-based, interactive crisis management system. In all cases, the key is prevention, preparation, response and recovery. That requires technology, but also advance planning. 

Simon Lambert Lambert & Associates

Generally, I expect that CCTV, access control and weapons detection sales folk go on the campaign trail after an incident involving an active aggressor. The media amplify the community’s calls for a technological ‘pill’ we can use to cure such violence at schools, universities, etc. Whilst there is often a grain of truth supporting this reflex, we should resist a kneejerk. If the modus operandi of the perpetrator (and possible future ones) would not have been slowed by the aforementioned security gear, then why buy it? A false sense of security is an illusion that makes us more vulnerable. However, technology that enables responders to quickly thwart the aggressor(s) can surely make a tangible difference. Portable up-to-date site maps, live location and management information, reliable communications, physical protection, medical equipment, non-lethal debilitation, etc. Until we have ‘Minority Report’, incident prediction is unlikely. Good response needs equipment and training.

Brenda Koesterman Convergint Technologies LLC

Having software that centrally controls access rights can improve chances of limiting the violence. If you have sophisticated enough software you can restrict access to all users or certain users immediately. Put that technology in the hands of the police and security professionals and a comprehensive strategy can be put in place to protect students, staff and the rescue team.

Access control software will also help rescue teams by providing data on who is where within the school, helping to identify where students and staff are in the building and when they last accessed that area. If this technology can integrate with CCTV, the information becomes an incredibly powerful asset to security forces.

Editor Summary

It's often easier to see and identify gaps in a system when that system fails. The problem is obviously not about not having the proper technology available to reach the adequate levels of security in educational institutions. Our panellists have outlined a few very good examples of how security technology would have helped in some of the recent school crime incidents. The technology is out there, it just needs to be deployed. So why is it that many schools lack sufficient security systems to prevent campus violence? Is it because many of them have the "it wouldn't happen here" mentality? Is it a lower priority on schools' budgets? Perhaps these are questions for another discussion.