The need for advanced campus safety technology has never been greater and the stakes have never been higher. Don’t take my word for it, just turn on the news on any given day. From active shooter emergencies to extreme weather events, instructors and administrators are the first level of defense when it comes to the wide variety of safety threats at school.
The good news is that cutting-edge technology to provide safety for students and peace of mind for parents is being adopted widely by colleges and universities. And considering the variety of potential risks in today’s environment, it’s time to view these solutions not as a matter of luxury or convenience but best practices.
Demand is growing for campuses to be equipped with emergency response technology that can connect rapidly with first responders. Students have grown up in a world saturated by connectivity and instant communication. Today’s emergency alert systems are no different. They have evolved since the bygone days of landline telephones and wall-mounted fire alarms. The new safety solutions are fast, smart, and can even integrate seamlessly with the personal devices that have already become a central part of our lives.
A campus safety technology revolution
My career began in law enforcement, and I have witnessed the shift firsthand. When I was first introduced to the world of emergency alert technology, mobile phones could not fit in your pocket and the internet needed to be dialed up, often repeatedly, to achieve a connection. Safety technology now is far more advanced, and just like our smart devices, it has been optimized for ease of access, speed, and 24/7 functionality.
Solutions like panic buttons and mobile device widgets can deliver touch-of-a-button safety tech to every single classroom across a campus. Instructors can trigger an instantaneous lockdown at the slightest hint of danger, alerting law enforcement and every other staff member that there is an emergency. It’s technology that saves lives.
The tragic reality is that hundreds of thousands of students have been exposed to gun violence since the Columbine High School shooting. Being aware of safety threats, vulnerabilities and how to handle them is crucial. The most popular phrase circulating in the active shooter response space is probably “Run, Hide, Fight.” It’s extremely helpful, and memorable, so that students and staff know clearly what to do in an emergency. But coupling this awareness with the right tools is just as important.
On college campuses, mobile apps are being provided to students so they can alert safety forces to emergencies, report suspicious activity, and even track friends who are walking home alone late at night. Physical and sexual assault, as well as robbery and theft, are no longer uncommon, and there is simply no time to waste when it comes to investing in the security of campus life. More than anything, it’s important that students feel safe.
Beyond active shooter situations, the most reported crimes on college campuses are burglaries, sexual harassment and motor vehicle thefts. According to recent polling, less than half (45%) of college students feel “very safe” on campus, and less than a third (28%) feel “very safe” walking around campus at night. Compared to male students, female students are 20 percentage points less likely to feel very safe walking around campus at night. Universities should consider how address students’ needs in all aspects, and especially when it comes to personal safety.
In light of the mixed-threat environment that schools today have to navigate, it’s crucial to take a holistic approach to ensuring school safety. This includes safety drills, training and education, improving access control, planning and coordination with local law enforcement, and modern emergency alert systems. When students’ lives are at stake, we can’t afford blind spots. Cutting corners is just not an option in today’s world.