School safety needs to improve. Not too many people would disagree with that. We can’t lock down schools like a correctional institution, but we can do better. Several years, NSCA developed a program called MNEC (mass notification and emergency communications). This effort has allowed our members to become very influential in helping schools with their safety and technology planning.
NSCA’s efforts focus on practical, effective ways of implementing electronic systems technology and educating members on the systems and new technologies that make a difference. Our goal is to improve communications in times of emergency situations, and give safety officers the tools they need to assess the incident and act accordingly in a most timely manner.
While it seems like the Sandy Hook incident just took place, we’ve had 31 school shootings since then in the United States – simply incredible and unacceptable. In many cases, these incidents involved students walking into schools with weapons in backpacks. We’re finding that many of these incidents no longer make front page news because we’ve become accustomed to this. We can’t accept that; we have to do more.
The issues of risk assessment, security procedures, lockdowns, surveillance, and access control are debated every day in K-12 and higher education; in many cases, nothing is done. Funding remains the primary barrier to making technology improvements. The slow adoption of codes (like NFPA 72 2010 version), and the underfunding of AHJ training to enforce the codes that do exist, are impeding the deployment of technology as well.
Perhaps the most significant barrier to improved school safety is public acceptance of this new reality. We have to accept the fact that these incidents can happen anywhere, including our own hometown. Once the majority of people accept that times have changed and schools are at risk, we can move forward with proper funding to support the proven technology we provide.
As an industry that manufactures, designs, sells, and installs communications and security systems in schools, we need to be proactive in our support of funding for these projects. We need to be equally proactive in working with school officials on the initial safety plan for their buildings. We can do that locally and on a national basis through advocacy and outreach. We hope you can support your legislators (such as a bill pending in Indiana) to pass legislation that establishes a minimum standard for life safety systems.
Please visit www.mnec.com regularly and become a local advocate for the improvement of your schools’ safety and security plans. In addition, follow NSCA’s government affairs activity of licensing and code-related efforts.