Aiphone banner

How Technology Can Be Used to Keep Schools and Students Safe

March 23, 2021 jill Blog


By Kevin Brown and Alok Jain

Albert Einstein once stated that a problem cannot be solved with the same consciousness that created it. This concept is spot-on when it comes to school safety and security – particularly with Christian schools.

All too often, public schools approach safety and security with an “insurance policy” mentality; that is, they fervently hope nothing serious happens and make barebones investment in access security (like a few fire alarms, surveillance cameras, access controls), and then cross their fingers, hoping for the best.

Christian schools often take this mindset one step further, counting on the moral instincts they hope are fostered in their students to prevent undesirable incidents.

Both approaches made sense 20 years ago. Today, not so much. And that is the challenge Christian schools face regarding safety and security. Like public schools, they bring a 20th century solution to a 21st century problem.

For example, fires in schools are not a common occurrence, by any means, but they do occur far more often than most people would like to believe.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, there are more than 3,200 fires each year in schools in the United States. And each year, our schools tragically instill antiquated and dangerous habits into our students with static fire drills.

Our students are taught that when they hear a fire bell, they are to stay low, walking single file out of the classroom, turning right, walking down the corridor and turning left. They then walk down the hallway toward the exit.

But what if the fire has originated somewhere along this route? Now you are asking students and teachers to (a) not panic and (b) start looking for alternate routes while staying low, avoiding possible smoke and (c) did we mention not panicking?

Now, change things up for a minute. Let’s say it isn’t a fire. It’s a gunman. In the hallways.  Now, the protocols become even more tragic, more dangerous.

For most schools, their protocols kick in once shots are fired. Let that sink in for a moment. A gunman is walking in your hallways – with a weapon in sight – yet most response protocols wait until the weapon is fired before they are initiated.

Compound the issue with the reality that these gunmen are – unfortunately – quite strategic in their thinking. They often will make a phone call warning of a leak, or push a fire button, in order to get more targets in the line of fire. Harsh, but this is how we have to think – harshly – if we want to combat these types of problems.

In fact, to paraphrase Romans 12, which is familiar to these schools and their administrators, we shouldn’t just fall in line with what everyone else is doing. We need to think differently. We need to change the way we think about these emergencies and how to respond to them in the safest and most expedient manners.

Fortunately, technology today is available to solve these types of challenges…but again, schools must think differently.

There are surveillance cameras. The problem is that fires don’t avoid cameras. Neither do gunmen. Cameras are often the first thing that a gunman eliminates. Again, they think far more strategically than we would like to think.

There are metal detectors at entrance areas. The problem is the gunman doesn’t follow rules.  And as much as we don’t want to consider this, they often don’t work alone. They arrange to have a window opened or an emergency exit door opened. Getting a weapon into a school can be woefully simple.

There are gunshot detection sensors. The problem is these are reactive technologies. They do nothing until shots are fired. In other words, what initiates their response is bullets flying in the hallways. By then, it is too late.

So, thinking differently means avoiding this normal, traditional solutions. It means bringing in smarter technologies that can detect incidents before they get out of hand. It means hiding these technologies so they are not easily found and disabled. It means integrating these technologies into one system, so they work together seamlessly and simultaneously – in parallel, not serially.

Here is an example. Today’s speakers (which play announcements, play music, sound bells and alarms) are far smarter than the speakers of 20 years ago. Today’s speakers have sensors built into them. They have cameras built in. Smart cameras. Cameras powered by artificial intelligence, with machine learning, that know how to recognize guns before they are fired.

These speakers have built-in signage devices or can quickly integrate with signage monitors in hallways and classrooms. And, finally, these speakers are SIP-based IoT devices that communicate with each other, exchanging real-time information.

The result?

A gunman walks down a hallway with a weapon, not realizing that the speaker at the end of the hallway that looks like an EXIT sign has already picked him up. The speaker has already locked the doors. The speaker has already sent an audible alarm to each classroom speaker and a visual alarm to each classroom monitor. The police have been notified and are watching the gunman as they approach the school, on cameras built into speakers that the gunman is unaware of. No shots have been fired, but the school is locked down, with help on the way.

For fires? The speakers – with sensors – know where the fire originated and share this information with other speakers and devices in the school. Students are being instructed – audibly and in multiple languages – about the new alternate route they should follow, away from the danger.

Embedding these technologies into everyday devices – speakers, EXIT signs, clocks – is key. This is thinking differently, attacking today’s challenges with today’s technologies.

Moreover, these technologies are powerful, yet simple, and easy to configure and use as your smartphone – which is good news for our administrators who do not need one more difficult system to manage. But it begins with mindset, with thinking differently, to create safer schools in the 21st century.

Alok Jain is founder, president & CEO and Kevin Brown is co-founder and CSO of Quicklert, which is creating safe-smart campuses for schools by detecting threats faster, analyzing data smarter, and simplifying communications with an array of actions including mass alerts, two-way mobile messaging, 911 alerts, evacuations, lockdowns and parent communications – all from a single, intelligent platform,

Tags: ,