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How Technology is Transforming Campus Safety

March 12, 2020
How Technology is Transforming Campus Safety

Remember spending more time on your school’s campus than at home? Long hours cramming for an exam at the library and goofing around with friends in the cafeteria are activities central to growing up for many. Over the past few years, however, massive crises on school grounds have changed the way students navigate the campuses they call home – so much so that a $2.7 billion industry has risen to better equip safety teams to deal with mass emergencies through campus safety technology.

Technology on campuses is going farther than just Smart Boards, upping the public safety game with advanced campus safety technology. From active shooter situations to severe weather emergencies, campuses should be ready to respond to safety risks as soon as they occur. Let’s explore how some of these new technologies are helping college public safety teams keep students and faculty safe.

Access control systems

Access control systems make for great first lines of defense into school grounds. Otherwise, residence buildings, lecture halls, and administrative buildings might be easily accessible by armed assailants or thieves, compromising campus safety. Student restricted areas, closed off for safety reasons, can also be kept locked and inaccessible.

When help can’t get to the scene of emergencies immediately, the systems’ central monitoring grants the right personnel access to lock or unlock doors remotely. At a higher level, just knowing which system or doors triggered alarms is crucial, granting situational awareness to those responding to emergencies that was not available before without technology. 

IP-enabled cameras

Whereas traditional analog cameras have lower frame rates, coverage, and resolution, IP-enabled cameras have multiple sensors and the power to detect motion and smoke, track people in frame, and set off alarms when necessary. 

Cameras that actually tilt to cover greater areas and pick up better resolution are a big deal. They position campus public safety teams and law enforcement closer to incidents, picking up elements of crime that weren’t visible before, like distinct facial features, precise details about clothing, or car license plates.

Gunfire detection systems

Since the shooting at Columbine High School, there have been 11 mass shootings on school grounds in the U.S. Having the ability to detect threats immediately, and perhaps even before they cause irreversible damage, is a game changer for campus safety and law enforcement responding to them. 

Now, companies are creating special sensors that identify gunshots and alert the correct personnel instantly. Safe Zone sensors detect number of shots fired, type of weapon, and a detailed map tracking the shooter’s location. Supplied with this information, law enforcement then makes informed decisions about dispatching response and disseminating information to staff, faculty and students.

GIS and IPS

Location is key in emergencies, saving valuable time if pinpointed instantly. Geographic information systems (GIS) and indoor positioning systems (IPS) deliver that spatial context about environments, showing blueprints and 3D imagery of an area where a threat is taking place. When an emergency occurs and the authorities have to arrive at the correct location, GIS and IPS are useful guides. 

The location of key players in incidents, from AEDs to actual people in danger, can be pinpointed in real time without verbal or direct communication. GIS and IPS are especially useful in multistory buildings, where pinpointing where an emergency has been triggered is harder without technology. For example, 911Inform’s system presents 9-1-1 with a detailed floor plan of the facility where a call is placed from. On the map, access points are highlighted and rooms are viewable in 360 degree view. 

Safety features in apps

Safety features built into a campus’s dedicated app, or just training students and faculty to use other safety apps, can empower those directly affected with vital information and lifelines to help. These measures grant students and faculty peace of mind, knowing that if they ever feel unsafe on campus, they can use in-app features to call for help or report an event. 

Panic buttons in apps, as well as text-to-911 capabilities within them, connect people in danger to help in discreet ways when calling 9-1-1 isn’t an option. Alert systems and mechanisms for reporting crimes, like Kansas State University’s LiveSafe app, also do their part in letting people openly report incidents and in announcing when emergencies occur and guiding proper response measures to avoid risk. 

The Future of Campus Safety

All of these measures are boosting campus safety, but there are still some missing links. Public K-12 schools are less likely to have dedicated public safety teams than private schools or university campuses. Even for college public safety departments, local law enforcement agencies might need to step in when additional help is needed. Ensuring that the correct personnel can get critical information about emergencies is key. 

Security tech collects vital data at the time of an emergency, and when coupled with a school’s data on its constituents – emergency contacts, allergies, disabilities, etc. – the information means a lot when a 9-1-1 telecommunicator is trying to dispatch help. A 9-1-1 dispatcher will know exactly which door on campus caused an alarm to go off during an emergency, or where an active shooter situation is happening before a call has to be placed. 

A tangible link from technology to 9-1-1 can speed up response times and improve emergency response on college campuses. Sending data directly to 9-1-1 is now a reality: companies like Rave Mobile Safety, are already empowering 9-1-1 with situational data. The RaveGuardian app lets students and faculty directly contact 9-1-1, with text-to-911 features and real-time location sharing. As more school campuses upgrade their current security measures and tech companies create tools for better emergency response, one thing’s for sure – the future of campus safety looks promising. 

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