For many parents, educators, and communities, 2018 was a year of heartbreak. That year, 113 people were killed or injured in school shootings in the United States. According to the Center for Homeland Defense & Security, it was the worst year on record.
Yet, with school shootings receiving media attention for over a decade, the majority of these districts already had school safety solutions in place at the time of their incident. Many had lockdown procedures, and some had practiced active shooter response training. But not all such plans are truly effective.
What should you keep in mind if you want to be certain that the school safety solution you’re considering will actually protect the children in your classrooms? Here are five critical factors to consider when you’re comparing lockdown systems.
1. The lockdown system should notify law enforcement directly and immediately.
In some of the most tragic school shootings of 2018, the response was delayed because law enforcement officials were given confusing or conflicting information. It’s critical that first responders be accurately informed of the shooter’s exact location—right down to the room number—and the faster they receive this information, the sooner they can intervene.
Systems that centralize reporting and response—for instance, where the front office calls 911 or orders a lockdown—introduce delays. When it comes to active shooter response protocols, speed saves lives, making automatic and instant notification of law enforcement a must-have.
2. The lockdown system must alert all building occupants.
In many school shooting situations, deaths occur in hallways or common areas outside of classrooms. If students and faculty are relying on a P.A. system that only broadcasts into classrooms, lifesaving information may be missed.
Look for a school safety solution that will immediately notify all building occupants directly—including students who are visiting their lockers or using the restroom. Its alert should be clearly audible and visually identifiable from anywhere in the building.
3. The lockdown system should provide clear and relevant information to staff.
Not all school shooting situations are the same, and not all demand the same response. In order for school officials to assess the situation correctly, they need to know exactly what type of threat they are dealing with and exactly where it is located. Having accurate real-time information improves school employees’ and administrators’ ability to manage the chaos of a crisis situation.
Staff and faculty need to know where in the building the alert was first sounded. If text and email notifications can be sent out within seconds, teachers can avoid the area of potential violence. They can also determine whether it’d be better to evacuate the building or remain barricaded in—depending on how close to the threat they’re located.
In a crisis, having too much information can be just as detrimental as having too little. Identifying the building, address, and room number is sufficient for everyone to decide whether to attempt to flee the structure or remain barricaded in the classroom.
4. A school safety solution needs to help teachers respond to the situation and protect their students.
It’s vital that we empower the school staff and faculty members whose lives will be on the line to take action. With tools in hand that can help them keep their students safe, they’ll be less fearful and better prepared.
In Sandy Hook Elementary School, three teachers and staff members died while diving in front of children, using their bodies as human shields. By providing educators with protection options during an attack in the classroom, we give them another tactic for protecting their students from harm if the barricade is compromised.
Gunshot wounds can cause catastrophic bleeding, and without intervention, the victim may not live more than five to eight minutes. Applying direct pressure or a tourniquet immediately can dramatically improve survival rates, so it’s critical to keep a trauma kit accessible. Life-extending trauma support is needed in order for police to stabilize the scene before paramedics can enter and tend to the wounded.
5. The lockdown system must have built-in controls that dictate who can and cannot activate it.
Active shooter (armed school intruder) situations are far more common than they should be, but they’re still rare in comparison to bullying and pranks. Because activating a school safety solution has serious consequences and produces a significant response, it must have robust access controls to ensure that it’s not set off accidentally, maliciously, or as a joke.
When it comes to school security, there’s no simple solution that will solve all problems. What’s needed instead is a multi-layered approach that combines awareness, training, and simple tools that encourage response and speed up notification and alerting.
The SafeDefend System was designed to include all these components to help schools and organizations protect students and staff when seconds and minutes count. To learn more about how it can be put to work to protect your school and community, contact us today.