School Security Vulnerabilities: Is it time to upgrade?

Despite the ongoing pandemic and the political push to get back into the classroom soon, school safety and the threat of violence remains a top concern for school administrators. In fact, research shows that the propensity of threats and violence will only increase after this long layoff from the classroom. While school safety and security have increased over the last 20 years, in response to repeated school shootings, have we done enough? Can we do more?

For the purposes of this discussion, we’re going to focus on technology. However, it’s important to acknowledge the amount of effort and advancement that has gone into the social emotional portion of threats and safety. Recognizing behavioral patterns, bullying, isolation and other factors that inform a child’s decision to act out, whether violent or not, means we might be able to stop a threat or violent act long before that path is chosen; long before any sort of active security technology is even tested in a real threat. If we can intercede in a child’s life, we can potentially save many other lives, including those who might be driven to violence.

Unfortunately, not every planned (or unplanned) act of violence is going to be identified and stopped. So, we rely on physical security (SRO’s, door locks, bullet proof windows, etc.) and active technology (camera’s mostly) to stop any violence before it escalates. More than 90% of schools have deployed camera’s and most, if not all, have some sort of door locks, and visitor tracking to stem the free flow of individuals just getting into a building. Most schools also have lockdown drills just as often as they have fire drills. We’re applying current technology and thinking to growing and changing threats, in an active campus environment.

In fact, all of these barriers and practices were in place in recent school shootings. At Parkland the shooter was an expelled student who was identified as a potential threat. The staff practiced lockdown drills for school shooters. Their doors had locks. The campus had a visitor management system. The campus had an armed SRO outside the building. And, finally, cameras were installed inside and outside the building.

Yet, when the SRO heard the shots, he couldn’t provide any insight (actionable information) to students, staff or first responders. Door locks, lockdown drills and cameras did not stop the event. We all know the horrible events that occurred despite the extensive security measures taken by the school. The cameras recorded the events, like an airline black box records all the factors in a plane crash. But the initial tragedy was over and the shooter was gone long before first responders even arrived. The fragmented nature of these safety technologies meant there would be no way to ‘mash-up’ any information into a real time, immediate response.

Is there a better way?

After studying the events at Parkland and other schools, Drift Net’s CEO designed a better way. What if you could place cameras and thermal imaging devices in full school coverage, have those devices autonomously (smartly) looking for threats (as severe as weapons, smoke, fire, chemical challenges, and as innocuous as vaping), and then, through software, connect these devices to create that ‘fusion of distributed information.’ You would have a real-time, geospatial nervous system of your campus that, like your own brain, reacts (instructs for proper exist/egress or lockdowns) and shares (with Administrators, security personnel, and other staff) real time information about the type, location and seriousness of any threat. Wouldn’t you feel safe on your campus? Is this possible? Yes.

Drift Net’s KnowWhere Campus Safety System does just this, and more.

Let’s start by explaining why a series of cameras, for the most part, fail. Each camera is independent. If you have 50 cameras in a school, their only connection is a series of screens that displays images from several cameras. Even if, and this is a BIG if, a person was viewing a camera feed and witnessed a threat of some kind in real time that was moving through the campus, the cameras are still just recording. The cameras don’t smartly follow a threat, don’t talk to one another and track the threat, and certainly don’t warn any Admin, Staff, Student or First Responders of an impending danger and suggest a safe course of action. They just record. They count on a human watching multiple feeds to recognize, process and act to a threat. How much more impactful would this be if those actions were coordinated and autonomous?

To be fair, many cameras do have motion sensors on them. It’s great to know that the camera will pick up and alert the same person, walking the same dog, at the same time, every day right past the campus building and in plain view of one of these motion detecting cameras. Motion isn’t intelligence. Now, if someone appears in a hallway, or climbs on a roof or does some other action, an email or text alert is rightfully sent from that camera to a defined set of individuals. However, those individuals are inundated with all the ‘false-positives’ and desensitized to real warnings. We become numb to events and will miss real threats. The independence of the camera requires human interaction which slows down or impedes any real intervention. Thus, they record events like an airline black-box, after the fact. How much safer would your campus be if you couldn’t be desensitized to false positives, or your system could identify real vs harmless threats?

Drift Net uses its technology not simply as recording devices (which they do), but programmed and connected in a way that autonomously abstracts reality so that we can discover, track and act to a real threat. Each POD is a distributed source that is fused together with software to create that geospatial nervous system for your campus. The POD’s bring physical and demographic data together to provide actionable information, in real time. How powerful would it be for your security systems to have a trained mind of their own, knowing when and how to act for any potential threat?

Not all threats need to be serious events. For instance, you might want to watch for vaping on campus. The KW-POD’s will be on the lookout for that event (at the same time looking for weapons), identify the activity, key in on the source, record the event, track the individual, and alert the staff. The only human intervention is apprehending the offender.

Some threats are less obvious or physical. Threats such as weapons or fire are easy to see, even with the human eye. Other threats like illness are nearly impossible to identify until the potential risk for exposure to others has taken place. In this year of Covid, fever presented itself as an early indicator of potential illness. The KW-POD’s which are watching for physical threats, are also using thermal imaging to constantly, autonomously scan for body temperature increases. Most fevers won’t be caught at a doorway scan. They’ll present themselves in the morning or afternoon in a classroom. The KW-PODs will pick that up and alert the staff. The human interaction here is the safe and careful removal of a child with fever. Imagine a system that tells your body, in this example the campus, when part of it is sick. Drift Net is the immune response, autonomously driven by a geospatial central nervous system.

We like to say, “you need to forget everything you’ve known about school safety.” Sounds bold and ambitious. But in reality, when we compare current safety design to Drift Net, we’re talking about something as different as a flip phone to an iPhone. Smartphones changed the way we communicate and work. Drift Net is changing the way we secure our schools to provide a safer learning environment.

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