We are currently in the grip of a global pandemic that has forced everyone into isolation. This status quo may hold firm over the next few months as humanity struggles to contain the carnage COVID-19 is wreaking on our social, economic, recreational, and spiritual livelihoods.
Bleak as the situation may be, there is a silver lining for school staff. The disruption of all public activity leaves them with a rare opportunity to revamp their security system. The past few years have indicated a rise in acts of crime and violence in schools, including bullying, fighting, shootings, and theft of school property.
With students at home indefinitely, now is the time to dust off your security plans and go through them once more. Security threats are always evolving, so there is a need to periodically assess and adjust your current system to adapt to the rapidly shifting landscape.
Why Now is the Best Time for a Security Upgrade
- With a national lockdown in effect, public spaces like schools are much safer because people are staying at home.
- There is increased police presence in the streets to enforce the lockdown.
- You can renovate your security system free of interruptions from the regular school curriculum.
- With reduced staff and operating costs, you have more resources to focus on security upgrades.
Assess the Efficacy of Key Security Components
The best security measures are proactive. Video surveillance, which, sometimes, acts as a deterrent to crime, can provide crucial evidence during criminal investigations. Therefore, one of the first things you need to evaluate is your video surveillance system.
Check that your surveillance system covers the main entryways and exits. Ensure there are no blind spots, and where natural light is limited, consider installing artificial lighting.
Increase your recording capacity as well, and invest in the cloud or off-site storage to keep your footage safe from damage and tampering.
Security Camera Resolution
Over the last decade, we’ve discovered that camera resolution can be a massive flaw in your security system. Investing in HD surveillance cameras is an invaluable upgrade to your school security because it gives you access to finer details.
Modern security cameras integrate features like AI to perform facial recognition, so there’s a lot you can do with a high-resolution camera.
It is essential to limit access to certain areas of the school from the general population. The security room, for one, requires high-level access control. Other places, like staff rooms, laboratories, and storage spaces for school equipment, should not be accessible to everyone.
Access control systems prevent incidents of theft and vandalism. Visitor management systems prevent unwanted entry into the school premises and allow you to log and identify every visitor that walks into your institution.
A mass emergency notification system comes in handy when you need to relay specific directives or emergency alerts to the school staff or the student body. It can save lives in the event of a sudden attack or impending tragedy.
Upgrading (or installing) a mass notification system becomes increasingly useful as your student body and faculty grow. In times of crisis, instant emergency alerts can buy people time to react, call law enforcement, and seek safety.
Smart sensor technology may sound like overkill for a school environment. It’s not. Sensors today are so advanced that they can detect vape (smoke from an electric cigarette) and sounds such as screaming, breaking glass, and gunshots.
Sensors can integrate with security cameras too. By setting your cameras to record only when something triggers the sensor, you save a ton of money on storage and power consumption.
What happens when a cyber-attack takes down your wireless network? Good school security should extend beyond the physical property. It should envelop your virtual real estate as well.
Everything from your websites to your cloud storage accounts to your student and employee data is at risk of malicious interference. Consider fiber network technology, which is impervious to remote manipulation, to supplement your current network.
Evaluate Basic School Security Measures
A security system does not merely refer to the surveillance cameras, sensors, and physical security elements involved. You need to assess your school’s security system from the ground up.
Reducing the number of entryways, trimming shrubs to promote natural visibility, and maintaining a functioning line of communication are three necessary security measures that are low-cost but extremely effective. Security equipment can be built into new and existing infrastructure just the same, so the more critical task is adopting useful security practices.
Formulate, Update, and Exercise Emergency Preparedness Plans
A sound emergency plan should cover multiple scenarios (lockdown, evacuation, parent-student reunification, etc.), and integrate a reliable line of communication to the public, media, and law enforcement.
This is the time to seek out local public safety officials for police, fire, and medical services to hash out strategic ways to deal with emergencies. Ensure that the school’s building plans are accessible at all times. Also, school staff should train to drill the student body and perform threat assessment independently.
Consolidate Relationships with Public Safety Officials
Staff and public safety officers should meet periodically to perform tabletop emergency preparedness drills. First responders should be aware of the entryways and exits that will be available in times of crisis.
Similarly, the police should know all the emergency access routes as it may provide a tactical advantage in hostage situations. Avail your school premises to the police/SWAT teams so that they can practice active shooter scenarios.
Create Crisis Communication Channels
In an emergency, your life will sometimes depend on how quickly you can call for help. Crisis communication channels can be social media-related or a direct line to the local authorities. In any case, this needs to be a system with multiple redundancies to guarantee its effectiveness in your time of need.
Assess your current communication plans. If there’s none, formulate a crisis communication system that will allow you to get your message out into the world when conventional channels are not available.
Take Advantage of the Lockdown
The public lockdown won’t last forever, but your need for better security will if you don’t act on it now. Update your security system to its maximum potential during this COVID-19 pandemic to be on the safe side when normalcy returns.