Integrate a Panic Button

Video surveillance software provides a direct link to classrooms

Violent acts in schools, committed by individuals, are unfortunately becoming more common. While video surveillance is the essential element in an overall school security plan, an emerging tool in combating this crisis scenario head-on offers the ability to send real-time, emergency alerts at the push of a button.

“We need to assure parents and students that they’re safe at our schools, and we need to use whatever, including the technology that exists, to keep the students safe,” said Dr. Bob Fortenberry, former superintendent of Jackson Mississippi Public Schools.

Video Insight has joined together with Audio Enhancement to develop a technology in video surveillance and audio alert notification through the integration of Video Insight VMS with Audio Enhancement’s Security Alert For Education (SAFE) System to provide a maximized solution for school crisis response.

“Because Audio Enhancement is an education industry pioneer, and Video Insight is a video surveillance leader tailored to the education market, it just made sense that we could work together to provide the best solution for those emergency situations that need real-time response,” said Brad Ehlert, vice president of product development at Audio Enhancement.

Already used in schools across the country, the SAFE System is a wearable device, or panic button, that a teacher or administrator has on at all times. The SAFE system, consisting of a receiver/ amplifier, teardrop microphone, monitoring station, and network interface or security camera, is customized to process alert notifications according to specific, school district policy. In the event of an emergency—such as an active shooter heard in the hallway or a violent classroom incident—the teacher can discreetly request assistance by pressing a button. First responders are notified with an audible and visual alert signal on the SAFE System monitoring station, and can then listen to a live audio feed from the classroom. This real-time information can be delivered to computers, laptops, smartphones or tablets so critical decisions can be made instantly.

Video Insight VMS—used on more than 5,000 school and college campuses nationwide—is a feature-rich, video surveillance solution that allows the monitoring of live and recorded video from a monitoring station, web client or mobile app. Designed to meet the specific needs of the education market, it is easy-to-use, scalable, supports 2,000 video camera models and integrates with facility maps.

One of the most severe limitations during an active crisis situation in a school building is the inability to know exactly what is happening. The integration of the SAFE System provides both eyes and ears, which can be an immeasurable asset to first responders and administrations reacting to an emergency alert.

The SAFE System integrates neatly with Video Insight. Rules can be created to send a pop-up window with the exact classroom location on an integrated facility map; record live video of the situation; and review recorded clips of video immediately preceding the incident.

“Simply pressing the button would activate the camera so that perhaps my life, perhaps my students’ lives, might be enhanced, improved, [and] saved by virtue of the fact that the office can see what’s happening,” said Dr. Carolyn Warner, former Arizona superintendent of public instruction.

There are a number of crisis situations that arise on school campuses that this integration is well-suited to combat including shootings, stabbings, fights, explosive devices, medical emergencies for students or teachers and disgruntled employees or parents. One of the more common situations teachers and administrators face is an unauthorized parent trying to pick up a child or visit a student in the classroom. The teacher knows the parent should not be there but is afraid to use the phone or press an intercom button in fear it could incite some type of response. However, by discreetly pressing the button on the integrated microphone, the teacher can request assistance without drawing attention.

Some panic button systems are just that—panic buttons. With this approach, the device tends to end up in the desk drawer, but with the microphone approach, the teacher wants to wear it for the benefit of the classroom audio.

Administrators welcome the power of VMS and emergency alert button integration as it can be the only lifeline for their teachers and students during a chaotic situation.

This article originally appeared in the December 2013 issue of Security Today.

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