Security StratEDgy for Schools: Effective and Affordable Solutions

Parents send their children to school with the appropriate expectations that they will be safe — that children can focus on learning and growing. Safety threats trump the ability to concentrate, to learn and to grow. Unfortunately, school safety threats loom large not only in the minds of students — but also in the minds of parents, teachers, school staff and school communities.

According to the State of School Safety Report 2019, the threat of an active shooter and an intruder are among Americans’ top-three safety concerns in schools. To combat these threats, an overwhelming majority of study participants believe schools should allocate more of their budgets to physical security, among other initiatives, according to the report produced by Safe and Sound Schools in collaboration with Boston University.

If your school is ready to embark on an innovative security system, where do you begin? Integrated Security Technologies believes smart planning, clear communication and solid collaboration are the keys to properly securing your students, staff and faculty. Through our partnerships with K-12 school systems and higher education, we’ve learned that schools have their own specialized processes in place. To create a successful school security plan, you need the support of many different stakeholders, including various departments and the public. We understand and leverage those dynamics.

For more than 20 years, IST has created security strategies that school can trust. We partner with schools to improve their safety by providing smart, effective video surveillance, door locking and perimeter intrusion detection system solutions. From design through installation, maintenance and support, we offer a full lifecycle approach, bolstered by our proprietary S.H.I.E.L.D lifecycle program.

One current example is our work serving as the designated security integrator provider for the Virginia Beach City Public School System. We are providing CCTV system preventive maintenance and performing corrective action tasks for all secondary and school support facilities. We also are creating a unified security platform — centralizing all video, access control and intrusion detection for all facilities so that security status and control can be operated from anywhere on the existing network. Each department receives customized training as each department has its own set of security requirements and areas of focus.

Whether your school needs understanding of security requirements and controls, an upgrade or implementation of a security platform or education on strengthening physical systems and adding cyber safeguards, IST can help. Let’s begin a conversation on how to make progress toward increasing the safety and security of your school.

A Snapshot of School Security for Students Today: Are We Making Progress?

At the end of October, the National School Safety Center (NSSC), along with state governors and state school superintendents, commemorated their 35th “America’s Safe Schools Week” with an ongoing awareness campaign to recognize strategic security successes and encourage greater participation by schools in their schools’ safety issues. It was a time to note the state of security and plan for the future.

 

What is the state of school safety for students, then? According to a recent New York Times article, the report is positive, especially since addressing school security issues has become a top district budget priority in the last few years. “School is one of the safest places for an American child,” the article claims.

 

The latest federal statistics from the non-profit Safe Havens International note that less than 3% of homicides of school-aged children (ages 5-18) occurred at school between 1992-2015. Most deaths at these ages are unintentional, caused by traffic accidents, drowning and poisoning. Homicide is still a top cause, but these incidents largely occur outside of school. Most homicides and suicides are not associated with the active shooter situations that are so prominent in the news. The bulk of violent incidents take place outside of school property too; scenarios like assault, petty theft, child abduction linked to custody issues and sexual predators occur more commonly at home.

 

Schools are More Secure Now
The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) published their comprehensive look at the school security landscape in their Indicators of School Crime and Safety: 2017 report published in March, 2018. Here are some of the most pertinent findings, all based on U.S. public schools:
  • For the latest data available, the 2014-15 school year, 20 of the 1,168 (1.7%) student homicides and 9 of the 1,785 suicides (.5%) occurred at school.
  • 100% of school students aged 12-18 have safety and security measures at their school, including a written code of student conduct, controlled visitor sign-ins and the school staff monitoring hallways.
  • 92% of schools in 2014-15 had an active shooter response plan, versus 79% in 2003-04.
  • 57% of schools engaged security staff in 2015-16 vs. 42% ten years prior.
  • 76% of schools trained teachers and aides on anti-bullying tactics, 48% trained them on detecting early warning signs of violence.
  • 81% of schools used video surveillance systems in 2015-16, up from 19% in 1999-2000.
  • 94% of public schools controlled access by locking or monitoring doors in 2015-16, up from 75% in 1999-2000.
  • 12% of schools in 2015-16 used metal detectors, up from 9% in 1999-2000 and 70% engaged security guards or police officers, up from 54% over that same period.
Since the horrific Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012, interest in increasing security has risen exponentially, and with every school shooting it spikes again. A 2016 report from the Government Accountability Office tells us that two thirds of schools routinely run active shooter drills. Fortunately, funding at both the state and federal levels for school security has also become more readily available.

 

The Department of Justice’s Grant Program provides federal money for security measures. The Department of Homeland Security offers a number of state-level grants, and the some states have specific trusts dedicated to enhancing school security. Additionally, student safety advocacy groups have sprung up to support security efforts, and extant groups have increased their efforts, often lobbying for more legislative help.

 

Schools are becoming more secure with every passing year, as they implement stronger security measures and take advantage of available funding. The focus on educating faculty about mental health has helped the staff intercept would-be attackers. New technologies like real-time response apps, social media scanning tools and networked sensors are also making schools significantly safer.

 

There are a number of actions you can take to increase security measures. Michael Ruddo, Chief Strategy Officer at IST, was recently featured in an article in SDM Magazine, and here he discusses more ways for schools to step up their security. Want to learn more? Contact us here.

Make the Most of OSHA’s Safe + Sound Week

Make the Most of OSHA’s Safe + Sound Week

This week is “Safe + Sound Week,” a nationwide awareness campaign created by OHSA. The comprehensive program, dedicated to keeping U.S. companies, employees and the public safe, is both important and enlightening.

Running from Monday through Sunday, this week focuses on raising awareness and understanding of the value of safety and health programs which affect everything from management leadership to worker participation to finding and fixing workplace hazards.

Why Should You Participate?

You know that workplace injuries and illnesses directly impact employers’ bottom line. But are you aware that in addition to social costs, U.S. employers pay almost $1 billion per week for workers’ compensation costs? This number includes direct costs like workers’ compensation payments, medical expenses and legal services payments—and indirect costs like training replacement employees, investigating accidents and deploying corrective measures, as well as lost productivity, damaged equipment and property repairs, and the additional costs that come with lower employee morale and absenteeism.

A safe business is a strong business.

How Do I Get Started?

Even though you’re part of the way through the week, you can still take advantage of this time to focus on safety and health habits.

On the OSHA website, you’ll find well-defined activities that make a real and lasting impact on your organization. Whether you want to host an employee-only event or include customers as well, there are a number of brief and productive activities that accomplish the week’s objectives. You’ll also earn a certificate and web badge that recognize your efforts and promote good adherence to these practices all year long.

OSHA identifies three core elements on which to focus: management leadership, worker participation and finding and fixing hazards.

Management Leadership:

Your dedication to safety and health should be clear at the highest levels of your organization. Start by establishing core values around safety and health and creating related goals. Then offer resources and make sure to always practice safe behaviors. Your actions at the top will drive the entire organization’s actions. Owners, executives, managers, supervisors and other leaders can make a big difference in their company’s cultures and systems. OSHA provides some real actionable checklists and smart ways to accomplish this.

Worker Participation:

Employees are the lifeblood of any business, and they must adhere to and be proponents of a safe and healthy work environment. To this end, they can set, implement, evaluate and enhance safety and health programs already in place, as well as offer recommendations where they feel there is a need for additional support. Employees should feel free to alert their superiors to perceived hazards as well. Since they’re the experts that work closely with the equipment and tools, they’re an invaluable resource for potential safety and health issues. OSHA provides some solid strategies to enhance and encourage worker safety and health practices too.

A systematic approach to finding and fixing hazards:

With a proactive, consistent effort, organizations can find and manage sources of potential injuries or illnesses. Whether you’re collecting and reviewing information about known or potential hazards in the workplace, determining the causes of hazards, or setting hazard controls, it’s essential to make this an ongoing program. OSHA recommends these tools to maintain the practice.

Safe + Sound = Smart

Whether you implement one or 100 of these ideas, you’ll be making your organization that much safer and smarter. After you’ve completed your events, you can download a certificate and web badge to recognize your organization and your workers. If you haven’t already, we encourage you to start today.

 

 

Using Technology to Prevent Violence in Schools and Hospitals

Using Technology to Prevent Violence in Schools and Hospitals

Our last post examined the high incidence of workplace violence in the healthcare and educational sectors. Since healthcare professionals work with a large, shifting population prone to a high rate of volatility, and educators often fall prey to students’ acts of violence, both are at a higher risk than the general population. If there is an incident, time is of the essence, and clear communication is key. So what are the best ways to protect these important public servants?

Protecting our Healthcare Facilities

While education and training are critical components of a sound security plan, technology is playing an increasingly important role. The strongest security strategies incorporate a holistic approach, including education and training regarding early warning signs of danger, smart security policies, regular drills, and the effective use of technology.

Healthcare facilities have adopted several important technological solutions to prevent, respond to, and mitigate acts of violence:

  • Leveraging Software: Many hospitals flag incoming patients exhibiting a past history of violence by including a security risk code in their electronic medical record, or EMR.
  • Access Control: Healthcare facilities apply locks, alarms, and sensors to doors and windows; many can be monitored remotely to prevent violent outbreaks.
  • Metal Detectors and X-Ray Machines: These tools ferret out potential issues and deter both visitors and patients from bringing weapons.
  • Panic Buttons: Since 82% of physical violence occurs in a patient’s room, these are one of the most effective tools, per the Emergency Nurses Association (ENA). Panic buttons can be embedded into a wearable device or located in the patient’s room for added protection.
  • Networked Video Security Systems: These can be remotely monitored to help keep an eye on important areas; they’re connected to first responders for a fast response.

Protecting our Schools

Many U.S. schools employ a holistic approach to prevent, respond to, and mitigate acts of violence. Their strategy includes a positive school climate, smart emergency response plans and policies, regular drills, and overall situational awareness, in addition to school security systems that incorporate new technology.

Recently, the RAND Corporation and Johns Hopkins University undertook separate comprehensive studies to track the types of security technology being used by schools, as well as to provide recommendations on how to leverage them more effectively. Here are the recommended strategies:

  • Access Control Technology: Door locks, alarms, and sensors can be tracked remotely, and instantly alert a centralized controller to a security issue.
  • Sensors: Gunshot-detection sensors are networked to reach first responders and school administrations.
  • Panic Buttons: Even ID cards can be equipped with panic buttons so that they’re mobile.
  • Good Lighting: All areas must be well lit to deter crime and illuminate perpetrators.
  • Communications Tools:
    • Anonymous Tip Lines: These programs can receive tips from various media channels, both online and offline.
    • Digital Floor Plans: Layouts on map-like grids help first responders navigate an unfamiliar scene quickly.
    • Mobile Apps and Platforms for Real-time Response Management: These include SOS buttons, video capabilities, and staff communication tools to contact first responders in seconds instead of minutes.
    • Portals: These centralized sites are smart educational resources, with state and federal laws, prevention tips, incident response information, training sessions, and violence alerts.
      • National Open-source Database: New York’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice built an open-source national database to track K-12 school shootings.
      • Campus Shield: The brainchild of Miami-Dade Schools Police, this pilot program funnels social media feeds, attendance records, school incident reports, local crimes, and citizens’ tips to the district’s network of surveillance cameras, the school-visitor system, the gunshot-detection system, and a team of mental-health specialists.
  • Social Media Scanning Tools: IST vendor Verint collects, analyzes, and synthesizes intelligence from social media as well as other internet platforms to identify possible threats that can then be addressed proactively.
  • Security Software: One type of software application development provides instant background checks of visitors.
  • Weapons Detection: X-ray machines and metal detectors can identify weapons and also deter their use.

Interested in learning more? IST is on the cutting edge of using technology to prevent violence in schools and hospitals, and we can provide a variety of effective tools for any industry. Contact us here.

Should You Be Worried About Workplace Violence?

Part of a series for National Safety Month

Did you know that almost two million people were victims of workplace violence in the past year? That’s more than one in four workers each year, to the tune of over $121 billion in lost revenue. According to OSHA, homicide, the most drastic, is the third leading cause of workplace deaths in the U.S. These numbers are troubling, but when you recognize that many companies under-report non-fatal injuries and illnesses, they become even more so.

A recent Washington State study found that many incidents go unreported due to a lack of awareness by the company, a lack of communication within, or even a lack of incentive to report. Employees often don’t raise their hands because they don’t fully understand what constitutes violence or they fear retribution, and company executives are sometimes put off by the time-consuming Survey of Occupational Injury and Illness (SOII) reports they’d need to complete. So this begs the question:  How many more incidents actually occurred? Sadly, we don’t know.

Workplace violence can be defined in two ways. The first is more commonly recognized since it’s frequently covered by the media: A disgruntled customer or employee takes a firearm and shoots people at a place of work. In actuality, the more common transgressions fall under OSHA’s definition of “any act or threat of physical violence, harassment, intimidation or other threatening disruptive behavior that occurs at the work sites. It ranges from threats and verbal abuse to physical assaults and even homicide.” (Source: Workplace Violence Research Institute) 

Workplace Violence in Healthcare Settings:  Be Aware in Healthcare

After law enforcement, healthcare professionals are most at risk since they come into contact with a high volume of patients in unstable situations. In fact, they’re almost twice as likely as those in the private sector to be a victim of workplace violence (OSHA). Healthcare and social assistance professionals comprise 12% of our workforce, yet experience 75% of workplace violence incidents. Manufacturers and construction area workers also clock in higher than the U.S. average.

Here are some more facts:

  • A full 80% of EMS personnel have been maliciously attacked by patients.
  • Homicide is the second biggest threat to home healthcare professionals
  • Within the past year, 78% of ER physicians and 100% of ER nurses experienced violence at the hands of their patients
  • Between 2000 and 2011, American hospitals had 154 shootings

(Source:  Ravemobilesafety)

School Violence Prevention: Dangerous Lessons

The workplace that attracts the most media attention is schools. Aside from the terrifying rash of school shootings, faculty grapples with violence on a daily basis. Approximately 44% of teachers report being physically attacked at school each year. In fact, 80% of teachers recounted at least one experience in the current or past year, and 94% of these were perpetrated by students. Cost estimates to teachers, parents, and taxpayers come in at $2 billion annually.

How to Prevent Workplace Violence

So is your workplace at risk? OSHA identified these risk factors:

  • Do you have contact with the public?
  • Is there an exchange of money?
  • Do you deliver passengers, goods, or services?
  • Do you have a mobile workplace like a taxicab or police cruiser?
  • Do you work with unstable or volatile persons in health care, social services, or criminal justice settings?
  • Do you work alone or in small numbers?
  • Do you work late at night or during early morning hours?
  • Do you work in high-crime areas?
  • Do you guard valuable property or possessions?
  • Do you work in community-based settings?

Here are some OSHA-recommended deterrents:

  • Physical barriers like bullet-resistant enclosures or shields, pass-through windows, or deep service counters
  • Alarm systems, panic buttons, global positioning systems (GPS), and radios (“open mike switch”)
  • Convex mirrors, elevated vantage points, clear visibility of service and cash register areas
  • Bright and effective lighting
  • Adequate staffing
  • Arranging your furniture to prevent entrapment
  • Cash-handling controls, use of drop safes
  • Height markers on exit doors
  • Emergency procedures to use in case of robbery
  • Training in identifying hazardous situations and appropriate responses in emergencies
  • Video surveillance equipment, in-car surveillance cameras, and closed circuit TV
  • Establishing liaisons with local police

(Source: OSHA)

How Do We Fix This?

Education is critical when you’re deciding how to prevent workplace violence. If employees fully understand the OSHA definitions of workplace violence, they they’re more likely to recognize and report incidents. Employers have the responsibility to provide a safe environment, through prevention and through alerting the authorities. Every company should have an emergency action plan and be prepared to implement it with the help of local law enforcement. Employers must track and report incidents correctly and adopt a zero-tolerance policy towards workplace violence. For every dollar invested in preventing workplace violence, $3 or more is saved.

And finally, remember that even when you’re not working, you’re often visiting another’s workplace. So always be on the alert.

In our next post in this series, we’ll explore how to use technology to prevent incidents like these in hospitals and schools.

Review Your School Security System

Now’s the Time to Review Your School Security System

We’ve reached a grisly tipping point in the fight against school shootings in this country. February’s massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL unleashed a national outcry. Led by the very students that survived this too-often seen tragedy, awakened activists throughout the U.S. are loudly petitioning, lobbying and marching for more gun control and safer schools. Change is in the air.

 

Leaving the gun debate aside for a moment, one of the best ways to protect our students is through smart and effective school security systems. In recent years, there’s been a huge uptick in installations, as schools move to secure themselves with cameras, perimeter security hardware and mechanical and electronic locks for the classrooms. They’re implementing what’s known as “airportization,” as they seal up possible breach points and provide gatekeepers with the technology and authority to keep would-be attackers out. Most schools now vet visitors with a camera and then buzz them in with an intercom.

 

By prioritizing security, schools are able to marshal the budgets needed to implement school security systems through several government programs. Michael Ruddo, Vice President of Business Development at Integrated Security Technologies, Inc., who was quoted in SDM Magazine in the article “What It Takes to be Successful in the K-12 Security Market,” explained, “there is more state and federal funding available for them through grant programs.”

 

Specifically, the U.S. Department of Treasury recently instituted the E-Rate program to provide discounts and incentives to help schools upgrade their networking infrastructure to counteract cyber threats that can also trip up their physical security.

 

School Security Systems are Easier to Get

Is your system up to snuff? Now’s the time to review your school security system because many schools are seeing real savings from theirs. As schools receive more grant money for security solutions, the technology is concurrently decreasing in cost. The end result is that schools may be able to afford more hardware and a greater number of services.

 

Additionally, security integrators can also provide more help than in the past.

 

“Fortunately security technologies have migrated to the IP/IT infrastructure,” said Ruddo. “Since this has already been built for collaborative and educational reasons, it is getting to the point where everything is IP-based, from the computers to the AV systems with smart boards.”

 

It’s easier than ever for security integrators to help schools achieve their security objectives.

 

Integrators like IST have become true partners to educational institutions ranging from K-12 to higher education, overseeing comprehensive school security systems that are seamlessly integrated and can be managed remotely or on-site from one spot.

 

“We take a very holistic approach,” Ruddo said. “We want to understand, ‘What are your risks? What are your problems? How do you operate on a day-to-day basis?’ Maybe locking that door will have a huge impact.”

 

With this approach, IST can provide exactly what your school needs—no more and no less.

 

If you’re looking to add or upgrade your school security system, we can help. We offer complete solutions ranging from video surveillance systems, to door entry systems, to barriers, to cybersecurity measures and more. In most cases, we can even integrate the latest technology with your existing systems. We closely monitor security trends in schools and elsewhere, and internally test the latest security driven products to make sure they’re effective every time.

 

We’ll help you design a security system that helps you—and your students and faculty—feel safe. Look here for a list of the best ways to secure your school.

What is the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018?

Consolidated Appropriations Act Releases $25 Million to fund school safety now and $33 million annually starting next year

On March 23, 2018, President Donald Trump signed the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018, which includes legislation that restarts the DOJ’s school safety grants program. The federal government has not issued grants for facility security since fiscal 2011.

 

This new provision will distribute $25 million to schools nationwide to purchase school security technology and equipment as well as fund emergency communications systems and other tools to help increase response capabilities among law enforcement. Starting next year, the bill will provide $33 million annually. Overall, the STOP School Violence Act included in this spending measure enables the DOJ to provide almost $1 billion to schools through the year 2028.

 

As a proud member of the SIA (Security Industry Association), IST is a big proponent of these grants. They will go a long way in helping better equip schools to deter and mitigate attacks like the one seen in Parkland, FL earlier this year.

 

SIA partnered with a number of other industry groups after the events at Sandy Hook Elementary in 2012 to help bring this bill to fruition. These groups include the AASA (School Superintendents Associations, the NSBA (National School Boards Association), the FOP (Fraternal Order of Police) and the IACLEA (International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators.

 

As part of its mission to protect students, SIA also co-founded the Partner Alliance for Safer Schools (PASS), which is a consortium of school security experts that developed special threat- and income-based guidelines for K-12 schools at http://passk12.org/toolkits/.