Unlocking School Safety: The Unknown Tool that 911 Says Could Change Everything

Unlocking School Safety: The Unknown Tool that 911 Says Could Change Everything

In 2022, there were 46 school shootings, which marked the highest number of such incidents since the tragic events at Columbine. These shootings have exacerbated the wave of violence facing our children, with gun violence surpassing car crashes as the primary cause of death for children and teenagers in the country, according to the Department of Education (Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 2021).

In response to these challenges, state leaders have been implementing diverse funding initiatives to introduce new technology aimed at safeguarding our schools. As education leaders grapple with crucial decisions regarding the most effective measures to protect their schools, we conducted interviews with 911 and first-responder experts to gather their recommendations.

According to First Responders: Rapid Communication is Key

In conversations with first responders, it became evident that the speed of communication from schools to 911 and first responders is of paramount importance. Data provided by the FBI indicates that once initiated, active shooter events progress rapidly, prompting law enforcement to swiftly approach the scene and initiate immediate entry rather than waiting for a tactical plan.

Confronted with this harsh reality, the first responders we interviewed emphasized the crucial nature of swiftly providing critical data to schools. The tragic incident at Parkland serves as a poignant example of the urgent requirement for a faster response, as 24 victims were shot before the police were dispatched. “In an active shooter situation, speed is paramount,” said Don De Lucca, former President of the International Association of Chiefs of Police. “Getting immediate and accurate information from the scene is life-saving.”

Truly Transformative Technology

With many new technologies available to school districts, it is important to remain grounded in what ultimately has an impact on improving response times, enhancing contextual awareness, and preventing or mitigating tragedy. When listening to those who work in public safety, it’s clear that, while each new piece of safety technology has its own unique advantages, what’s most important to first responders is the connection point between those products and 911.

“We know this first hand in Dekalb County. It’s been just over 15 years since we had an active shooter and school shooting,” said Heather Butler, 911 Coordinator for Dekalb County, Illinois. “Our 911 dispatchers were overloaded with calls and so much information coming in at the same time. The technology that would have been most helpful then, that we have now, is the ability to see the location of alerts coming in and understand where exactly the shooting was taking place. School alarms and sensors that are integrated with RapidSOS connect directly with our systems so that we can make sense of all the data coming in and dispatch the appropriate resources faster.”

Connecting Schools to 911

Through discussions with public safety, most experts cited the technology platform RapidSOS as an integral tool for connecting and aggregating life-saving data from digital devices to 911.

RapidSOS is an AI-enabled safety platform that links life-saving data from 500+ million connected devices, apps, and sensors directly to safety agents and 911. The safety platform supports a variety of technology companies in connecting their safety features to 911 including Apple, Google, SimpliSafe, Honeywell fire systems, and more. Data routed through the platform was used in more than 165 million emergencies in 2022 alone, including recent high-profile incidents in Allen, Texas, and at Michigan State University.

For school systems that have prepared their safety response plan in coordination with 911, RapidSOS is a key communication layer between various panic buttons, security cameras, access control systems, and first responders. School systems should prioritize a direct connection to first responders above anything else when shopping for solutions, and those that better understand available technologies look for the RapidSOS Ready resources.

A Guide to the RapidSOS-Ready Public Safety Technology Companies

Technology companies that are transforming school safety with direct connections to 911 through RapidSOS include Centegix, Critical Response Group, GeoComm, Raptor Technologies, SaferWatch, ZeroEyes, and 911inform, among others.

This article originally appeared in the July / August 2023 issue of Campus Security Today.

About the Author

Ralph C. Jensen is the Publisher of Security Today magazine.

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