Op:Ed: Technology Exists To Begin The Process Of Securing Schools, Houses Of Worship, Businesses

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By: Debi Davis, Chief Operating Officer of FrandMe.Education

As politicians grapple with meaningful gun control legislation and school boards try desperately to juggle dollars, school children remain at risk.

We recently observed the one-year anniversary of the tragic shooting at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School. While many safeguards have been put in place, we as a society have much to do to ensure that our schools are safe.

While we may not be able to fully stop these senseless crimes, we can intervene quickly by using up-to-date communications systems that alert and inform students, school administrators, parents and law enforcement agencies about the situation.  The technology now exists.

The evolution of the cell phone and apps have redefined the way we communicate. Talking with each other has been replaced by emails and texting while providing immediate access to social media platforms. It is now being adapted to protect schools, businesses, and houses of worship.

Thankfully, school systems nationwide are continually monitoring new security initiatives that will make their campuses safe.

Armed police offers roam the halls. Some schools have metal detectors at entrances. Others endorse arming teachers. They are all frightening images.

Budget cuts have eliminated many programs. These cuts also jeopardize expenditures on security measures. However, relatively inexpensive app platforms are available.

Initiatives for securing schools have been painfully slow. Keep in mind that our airports and planes were fully secured within months of the 9/11 tragedy.

The inadequacies of antiquated and ineffective school communications systems became tragically apparent during last year’s shootings.

Delayed response times and inability to effectively communicate were among the problems which are now being addressed. PA systems are inadequate because some areas in a school can’t hear the announcements. In addition, law enforcement doesn’t want a shooter to know what is happening in regard to their response. Through these new secure options, safety can be enhanced while lowering panic and stress levels among students and parents.

Some of the issues in Parkland included:

911 calls went to the Coral Springs Police Department which doesn’t provide service to Parkland.

Dispatchers transferred these calls to the proper department, but this resulted in delays.

Few heard the PA announcements.

The “common” radio systems linking police departments failed.

There was an inability to locate the shooter on the sprawling campus.

There was no effective way to keep parents informed, resulting in crowds arriving in the vicinity of the school.

The one common denominator was that students and administrators were using cell phones to call, text, email or post information on social media. Today, the cell phone can be used by schools to address emergency situations as well as day-to-day situations such as hallway disturbances, plumbing malfunctions, communications with parents, and updates on classroom/club activities.

Existing app technology can create secure, invitation-only websites for the school and each class and club. Through daily use, all parties are familiar with the app and will be more likely to activate a “code red” alert from the phone when necessary.

First responders, parents, students, and teachers can be immediately and accurately informed. Keep in mind that communication, accessibility, and speed are at the heart of improved security. Administrators won’t waste valuable time racing to the office to use a PA system or make calls on a land line.

Existing app technology can also accomplish the following:

Customize access to the proper first responders.

Push notification messages, which do not get lost in text or emails, can immediately be sent to the student body and teachers through this app, ordering lock downs, evacuation, etc.

Trusted students, teachers and administrators can be designated to activate the emergency alert codes.

GPS features enables first responders to know exactly where the emergency is occurring.

It is time to use app technology to enhance communications so as to control a crisis situation.

Many school systems are considering the implementation of these relatively inexpensive apps. Some are lobbying their school districts, school board members, and politicians to consider these communications tools. Private and charter schools, nationwide, have covered the costs of this system through fundraisers or have prioritized budgeted funds for this important addition.

This is part of a layered approach to securing our schools that include increased on-campus police, more security cameras, and improved secure entries. While not the total panacea, it is a start.

Debi Davis is the Chief Operating Officer of FrandMe.Education, a website and app developer that has created a platform that enhances school security and real-time communications. It was developed in the aftermath of the tragic shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. For more information, visit www.FrandMe.education.