Special Guest Blogger: Mark “Fletch” Fletcher, 911inform, LLC with intro by NWN Carousel
Deliver Safer Student Experiences with a Planned Technology Roadmap
Establishing school safety that is truly next gen, requires IT leaders to build a comprehensive roadmap for public safety requirements for today and into the future. School security requires a thoughtful process, careful planning, and a robust integration of technology. Your campus must be protected by a network of IT solutions that works seamlessly with existing infrastructure and can be securely tailored to meet the current mandates of a silent panic button for Alyssa’s Law, as well as any future public safety directives.
NWN Carousel’s Public Safety practice together with 911inform, LLC, integrates leading safety and emergency management solutions to deliver seamless and compliant technology and support to meet the latest in safety regulatory requirements. NWN Carousel delivers critical Unified Communications capabilities, along with networking, implementation, ongoing support and world-class managed IT services.
We uniquely provide our K-12 and higher education customers with a reliable technology roadmap including advanced integrations with video surveillance, access control, alerting & mass notification systems and wireless infrastructure (RFID and location services).
This enables institutions to invest in technology that supports today’s school safety requirements, as well as the Unified Communications tools that provide an engaging learning experience for students. Remember, smart upgrades are only as good as the supporting infrastructure and data it provides. NWN Carousel’s Experience Management Platform provides visibility, analytics and administrative functions. In addition, our ATS practice provides customized connectivity including networking, telecommunications, wireless and data.
Delighted to host our guest blogger, Mark “Fletch” Fletcher, ENP, VP Public Safety Solutions, 911inform, LLC to share his expert insight into recent legislation enacted to address telephony-specific issues relating to emergencies, as well as the latest in safety solutions tailored to meet a school safety law… before it emerges. As a founding member who wrote Kari’s Law, Fletch’s expertise in the public safety and telecom industries are highly respected.
We look forward to his guest appearance on our Sept 15 eXcellerate Webinar:
“Can Technology Make Schools Safer?”
Read on for Fletch’s comments on school safety.
We must protect our school children. Period.
By far, this remains to be the number one, and noblest IT/Safety related initiative anyone can invest in. According to 2021 statistics (source), 49.5 million public school students were enrolled in pre-K-12 in the fall, with the teaching staff for the 2020-21 school year having 3.0 million teachers in public schools (source), and another 0.5 million teachers in private schools (source).
Unfortunately, these facilities are also an effective contained area for bad actors to carry out terroristic attacks or seek revenge for a specific cause. Schools provide an environment of unsuspecting children, with a child-to-adult ratio over 16 to 1, exasperating the safety issue. To fight this scenario, specialized solutions must be designed to DETECT a threat, NOTIFY specific individuals of the danger, DIRECT specific individuals to safe areas, and MANAGE the threat response.
Fortunately, schools have been an area where the digital divide is being addressed to facilitate a better learning environment. With existing networks, deploying various IoT-type sensors throughout a facility becomes relatively simple. Specialized sensors capable of detecting smoke, noxious fumes, or temperature are commonplace today. Even more complex detectors geared towards picking up gunshots or glass breaking are becoming commoditized and readily available at affordable prices. Together, these can provide a GREEN, YELLOW, or RED operational status picture for any area in a facility.
Once a particular event has been detected, the sensor picks up the information, and the sensor type starts to fill in the operational picture. As more and more events come in, data can be correlated, becoming more relevant. For example, a smoke detector activated in a specific area may lower the temperature threshold of a temperature sensor to be more sensitive. This would prevent false alarms but provide exceptionally accurate confirmation of a fire in a particular area, being more sensitive when correlated with other events. This all points back to what is commonly referred to as workflow, which is nothing more than a very simple IF, THEN, ELSE decision tree, as well as the precursor for more intelligent artificial intelligence engines that are starting to be introduced into more and more environments.
Once an event has been detected and confirmed, the defined workflows can begin orchestrating staff and resources based on what has occurred and the affected area. Certain circumstances, such as a fire, may dictate the total evacuation of all personnel. While at the same time, other scenarios may prescribe a lockdown shelter-in-place response, as commonly used with an active shooter.
Critically, any single response plan is likely not practical for all scenarios. Any system being put in place must be flexible to adapt quickly to changing circumstances. Information overload can occur rapidly, and having individual platforms control each technology, can become cumbersome and inefficient in space, as well as confusing for the operator. An efficient system provides a common control point for its technologies and open APIs that allow other technologies to be included in a Single Pane of Glass interface environment.
As new technologies mature and become more affordable, they can easily be added as a ‘plug-and-play module. Video recognition is a perfect example of this. Some of the first deployments of video recognition were simply movement in an area. This technology was relatively simple, detecting pixels changing in an area that should have been static. Soon after, LPRs or license plate readers became trendy options for augmenting access badges for vehicle access control in parking lots. So quickly, the IoT world grew at record paces and was now capable of providing trigger events for even more incidents, adding to the responsiveness of a protection system.
Legislative Initiatives on School Safety
Recent legislation has been enacted to address some telephony-specific issues relating to emergencies. However, these were more focused on MLTS-related general problems such as access to 911 (Kari’s Law) and reporting a Dispatchable Location (RAY BAUM’S Act §506). Both laws only cover 911 calls from landline phones installed on MLTS systems. While applicable to K-12 deployments of an MLTS, they did not specifically address the growing dilemma in many schools today.
According to an FBI Report “Active Shooter Incidents – A 20-year Review 2000-2019 (https://www.fbi.gov/file-repository/active-shooter-incidents-20-year-review-2000-2019-060121.pdf/view), there were 333 separate incidents resulting in 1,062 killed and another 1,789 wounded in occurring in 43 states as well as the District of Columbia.
Alyssa’s Law on School Safety
Alyssa’s Law stipulates that all New Jersey public schools must install a system that provides silent panic alarms. The alarms must be capable of alerting law enforcement authorities during emergencies such as an active shooter. The law was implemented in memory of Alyssa Alhadeff, originally from Woodcliff Lake, NJ. Alhadeff was among 17 people killed in the Parkland, FL, shooting at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Several iterations of Alyssa’s Law had been proposed over the past few years until one was found that both solved the issue and provided an affordable solution. More on establishing school safety and complying with Alyssa’s Law.
Public Safety Emergency Response Management
When planning for remediation of Kari’s Law and the RAY BAUM’S Act, K through 12 schools need to take Alyssa’s Law into account as well. New Jersey and Florida have legislation in place today, and states like New York and Texas have legislative action in progress today.
In many ways, Alyssa’s Law is taking the same course as Kari’s Law. While the wheels of the Federal legislation machine churn their way through the House and Senate and their respective subcommittees, individual states are pressured by their constituents to take action immediately. With the localization of the initiatives and the much less complex process, these types of legislative efforts garner local support at a much deeper level. This is especially true during the Fall election campaigns, where they are viewed as low-hanging fruit.
In many cases, with no-cost/low-cost safety-related initiatives focused on our school children, you can imagine the attention they gather. These actions also drive the federal legislative agenda. Having 50 individual and separate rules applicable on a state-to-state basis becomes much more challenging to manage and creates a division in safety requirements. With the Federal version of Alyssa’s Law gaining attention, the chances of adoption at the Federal level are very high.
Now that a 3rd legislative rule is in the works in several states and Federal regulations for Kari’s Law and the RAY BAUM’S Act are in full force now, it becomes more critical to review the overall impact of any safety systems not only from a solution/compliance perspective but from an IT strategy perspective as well as the overhead and management of the systems being put in place. While tackling these projects all at once makes excellent sense from an IT perspective, due to common infrastructure on the backend, the difficulty can be finding a vendor with the wide variety of skill sets required to deal with the technologies involved, as well as interfacing with the Public Safety networks and vendors. In many cases, it is tempting to say, “IT is IT no matter what it is,” but those vendors learn a harsh lesson quickly when they don’t speak the Public Safety language and then get spotty support when trying to integrate new solutions.
This is why we built the 911inform platform in a modular manner. MLTS administrators and installers can look at their Network from a normal perspective and then work with public safety to plan the overall emergency response for the customer. By taking this role for the customer, they can intelligently interface with local fire marshals and public safety authorities to address issues. They can gain valuable insight into what information is helpful to first responders and understand the optimal placement of various trigger sensors for emergency service requests, whether it is a call from an MLTS phone or establishing a geofence boundary around the property to be alerted to any cellular 911 call traffic being made from inside that geofence.
The meetings during these actions create a partnership between public safety and the school district. The result ensures that the communication lines remain open between school administrators and local public safety officials.
The effort’s payback is that the school district now has agreed-upon response policies and is ready for activation. Standard Operating Procedures can be drawn up and signed off by those involved, so when the worst day possible happens, everyone who needs to be applied is prepared and trained by running tabletop exercises and full-scale live drills collecting real-world feedback on the effectiveness of the plan.
Legislation is happening at a state level, and federal legislation is coming. While remediating for Kari’s Law and RAY BAUM’S Act, don’t forget about establishing a solution that can deliver Alyssa’s Law compliance as well, and cross the third project on your student safety To-Do list as a bonus when you implement the other two!