The New Curriculum

The New Curriculum

Administration now faced with new solutions for maintain health safety

School security has taken on a new dimension as the result of the 2020 pandemic. Whereas school administrators have traditionally been concerned with maintaining high levels of physical security to protect students, staff and property, they are now faced with implementing new solutions that also help maintain health safety. This has stimulated a heightened demand for new technologies and system solutions that deliver both security and health safety, further complicating the already difficult task that K-12 schools face when looking to procure and implement new security technologies.

As with any public or private facility, school administrators need to implement proactive measures to assess external and internal threats, so they can detect them and hopefully prevent them from evolving into critical events.

A detailed threat assessment will allow them to create a systematic plan that includes standard operating procedures supported by the right combination of physical security technologies that best fulfill their specific needs. The assessment should address the longstanding daily challenges that K-12 schools face, from smoking and fighting, to theft and vandalism, to the active shooters and new health safety issues brought to light by COVID-19.

Yet, it is important to note that the same technologies applied for security and health safety applications aren’t all centered around threats, as they can also be used as an administrative tool for operations and facility applications such as graduation and academic ceremonies, sports events, concerts and dances and on-campus traffic management.

The Need for a Needs Assessment Report

K-12 school administrators must first define their specific needs to understand the challenges and the potential threats they pose, so they can implement the best system solution possible. The first step is to develop a risk assessment report, which is a prerequisite for any discussion and decision regarding the deployment of technology solutions.

The assessment report should be compiled by qualified experts and can consist of one or more of the following:

  • Security systems integrator/consultant specialized in campus/school security
  • Local police and fire officials (ability varies by jurisdiction)
  • Department of Homeland Security (for national studies and guidelines)
  • Federal Emergency Management Agency (for response processes)
  • Center for Disease Control (for the latest healthcare threats and safeguards against them)
  • Internal assessment based on specific location/environment challenges

Combining the perspectives of various security and safety experts is crucial to identify and address physical security, operational and health threat challenges that may not be top of mind for school administrators who are primarily focused on education.

In most new school construction, architects and security consultants are opting for a single point of entry, which provides a chokepoint for incoming traffic and allows for comprehensive security screening, visitor vetting and efficient staff-distribution.

Many campus designs are also integrating the practice of security and crime prevention through environmental design (CPTED) to leverage natural perimeter defenses like landscaping, perimeter boundary definition and security-enhanced traffic patterns with enhanced security technologies to better protect and monitor exterior spaces and interior corridors and classrooms.

Redefining points of entry and implementing CPTED tactics may also be possible for enhancements to pre-existing facilities. In either scenario, every additional layer of security helps further establish a balance between preventing threats, improving operations and making sure schools and campuses instill an open, welcoming environment that promotes learning.

Defining System-wide Parameters

Given all of the present-day challenges, K-12 schools across the country are actively investigating new technology solutions to help keep people, property and assets safe. Maintaining the human element in new technology solutions is important, as is selecting solutions that meet a school’s specific immediate and future needs, while being efficient, simple to use and cost-effective.

A systems integrator and solution provider with specific experience in K-12 school and campus security and safety have the knowledge and resources to help school administrators navigate the entire process, from securing project funding through system design, implementation and training.

On a school district-wide basis, security consultants and systems integrators mainly agree on the importance of deploying a common physical security platform solution across multiple locations, including off-campus administration facilities where applicable. A common- systems approach can lead to simplicity of operation, ease of training and reduced service and maintenance costs. It is also a significant benefit when planning to upgrade or expand the system.

Navigating the Process

Once a comprehensive security and safety risk assessment has been completed, school administrators can effectively evaluate their security infrastructure and assess their procedural and technology shortcomings to prioritize their investment and maximize the school’s security posture. In most cases, K-12 needs assessment reports will indicate the necessity for foundational video surveillance, intelligent analytics, access control, and alarm and event notification solutions, which may appear to be cost-prohibitive relative to existing school budgets and the size of the school and/or district.

Budget hurdles can undoubtedly lead to less than stellar outcomes. School administrators often find themselves looking at multi-layered system solutions from various vendors due to low-bid procurement practices. This often creates a lack of real ownership of the total system architecture and can result in weak system deployments, performance and ongoing management. This makes it important for school administrators to align themselves with the right technology partners from the start. If not, schools can get stuck for years looking to secure funding for technology solutions that may be outdated before they are even deployed.

To best meet the plethora of security and safety challenges K-12 school systems now face requires a new and innovative approach. One such example is the recently launched Panasonic i-PRO Secure Campus program, which makes it easier for school administrators and security staff to discover, procure and implement the security technologies and solutions they need. By sharing the ultimate objective of providing learning environments where students and teachers feel confident that they are safe and secure, the goal is to streamline and accelerate all of the processes required to implement enhanced or new security solutions – from securing grants to consultation, product specification, installation and after-the-sale support.

This article originally appeared in the November December 2020 issue of Campus Security Today.

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