There have been 96 school shootings – an average of one a week – in the wake of the 2012 tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., according to Everytown for Gun Safety, a conglomerate of law enforcement, mayors, teachers, parents, and others promoting safer communities.
To help combat this, and to help us sleep easier at night, schools across the country are using an array of technology products to upgrade and enhance security, and we’re looking at five of the most prominent.
1. Protective Glass
Many schools are securing and fortifying entry points. Administrators and security industry experts say a key strategy is delaying potential attackers at the point they try to gain access to the school. This gives law enforcement more time to respond.
School Guard Glass, invented by a Massachusetts man inspired by his desire to keep his two children safe in school, is a low-cost, two-layer glass that meets schools’ security requirements. The material, which is thin and lightweight, cracks when shot or struck at instead of shattering. A secret patent-pending ingredient makes up one side, while energy-efficient tempered glass comprises the other.
It has been tested to stall a would-be intruder by at least five minutes, sometimes as much as 15 minutes, as the intruder tries to enter via gunfire or repeated whacks with a heavy weapon, such as a hammer or bat. The noise alerts school employees, who call law enforcement in time to apprehend the intruder.
2. Bulletproof Whiteboards
Sometimes the answer can be right in front of us. That’s the case with bulletproof whiteboards, normal-looking marker boards used in classrooms across the country. But these dual-purpose versions stand up to bullets so the teacher can use it as a shield in the event of the threat of gunfire. It simply hangs on a hook on the wall. The teacher can quickly grab it in an emergency.
The boards, depending on the size, will cover the head and torso or head and legs. They stop most automatic fire and bullets won’t bounce off the board. Also, they blend in with the learning environment, so their presence won’t lead to psychological impacts on students who are fearful of an attack.
3. Smartphone Apps
Smartphones aren’t just for texting, tweeting, and playing Words with Friends. There are several smartphone apps that can alert law enforcement instantaneously of any reported school violence as it takes place.
One of those is Hero911, designed to shorten response time and alert as many law enforcement officers as possible. Once an officer, whether on-duty or off, downloads the app, he or she will get an automatic alert if someone at a nearby school has hit the panic button.
The alerted officers will receive a map and address of the school and 911 is simultaneously notified. The app gives law enforcement a head start because they are contacted as soon as the panic button goes off, rather than being alerted by 911 dispatchers.
4. Video systems and visitor management
While security glass and smartphone app advances gain popularity, good old-fashioned video systems are still a popular part of the overall security plan.
Some schools’ strategies are echoing workplace security measures. In Montana, the Missoulian newspaper reported all students and staff are required to carry identification in a lanyard around their necks. All doors will be locked, but students and staff can enter with their special, magnetic ID cards.
There are two entrances designated for visitors, who must be buzzed in.
5. Give intruders “the boot”
In West Michigan, one school district is using a five-pound device, dubbed “the boot,” to thwart would-be attackers, according to NewsChannel 3 in West Michigan. It’s a piece of steel that slips into place into two drilled holes into the ground at the base of the door, held against a bracket at the bottom of the door, whether it’s a classroom door or school office.
Because it’s only five pounds, it’s easy for anyone to slip it into place to keep intruders out and students inside. The boot is being placed on all the classroom doors at Lakeview School District Schools.
In the wake of continued grant funding and training from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, school districts across the country continue to upgrade and enhance their security practices to keep students and staff safe. Contact your local district to find out what measures have been taken in your neighborhood schools.
Written by Michele Dawson
Michele is a former newspaper reporter who specializes in real estate and home improvement. When she’s not writing, she’s trying to keep up with her four active tweens/teens. Learn more