Stay Away

Sometimes the media is just plain embarrassing.

The good people of Newtown, Conn. have pleaded with the media to stay away during the first year anniversary of the now infamous shooting at the elementary school. Has anything changed so significantly that the national media feels it must descend upon the village and try to cover new ground?

Sometimes, however, the media gets it.

For the most part, many media outlets stayed away from Newtown; even CNN, which had a major presence in the community a year ago, did not send anyone to fish or dig for more information.

The media apparently got the message prior to the anniversary when Newtown First Selectman Patricia Llodra sent a message to the national and international media asking them to stay away.

There are numerous ways to cover this story without being there.

I think everyone gets the message. There is still a great need for school security, and many schools have gotten the message and the money in order to make changes. According to a report from HIS Technology, an analyst firm delving into the security industry, the market size for security equipment in schools reached $634 million in 2013, and is expected to surpass $720 million this year.

Sandy Hook officials prepared for an influx of traffic and had extra police on duty around the anniversary.

“Our village of Sandy Hook was harmed almost irreparably by the chokehold that media traffic had on us for 10 days during the buying season of the year,” Llorda said. “And there is the emotional impact— clearly to be reminded in such a stark way of this horrible anniversary—we don’t need this. We live this every day; we know what happened here.”

People will never forget about Sandy Hook, just like Columbine will never go away. The fact is that high-profile shootings partially impact spending for school security. There is usually a spike in spending and budgets following these types of events.

IHS points out in its research that, in many cases, funding continues to be a barrier of growth to the expanded use of security equipment, though additional funds have become available for schools through statefunding programs. The Department of Justice is helping pay for additional officers by awarding $45 million from Community Oriented Policing Services grants, which also includes Secure Our Schools programs.

It is true that effective security comes from having effective policies in place and then leveraging the security system already deployed. Video surveillance acts as a force multiplier, giving campus officers greater visibility, either through having more cameras on campus, or by being more intelligent and combining access control and video surveillance technologies.

According to HIS, video surveillance will grow in schools twice as fast as that of access control through 2017. Analysts say that there are several critical success factors that decisionmakers look for in a security solution, including user-friendliness, integration, safety and reliability.

Events such as Sandy Hook have forced schools to review their existing policies and create threat assessments, including new policies and procedures. Presently, there is no standard in place for what schools need to do to prevent these tragedies. Long after events like Sandy Hook take place, media coverage fades; however, ongoing discussions and security reviews should continue where knowledge is shared between school districts and universities by sharing best practices.

What should schools be doing in the case of security programs? According to HIS, “Schools need to continue to develop independent security plans and develop automated approaches when able. But, schools also shouldn’t forget other means of security such as stronger windows and doors.

“At Sandy Hook, there was access control in place but the shooter was able to break through the glass to gain entry to the building. So while video and access provide a good starting point for a high level of security, having several layers of security help schools take a step in the right direction to prevent a tragedy like this from happening again.”

Money will likely be spent on a case by case basis, and this is perfect for dealers and integrators who have key relationships with school districts. Their input and expertise would help bring about interactive solutions between staff and first responders. Video used in real time is more crucial than just using it for forensics. Having video cameras on the perimeter of the school building also can be a deterrent in some cases.

IHS analysts say that having video surveillance in place is crucial, but having people in place who can quickly respond to a situation is equally important.

In this industry, we can’t stress security enough, particularly to the education community. Protecting our children is, or should be, a top priority. Many school officials I have talked to are aware of their responsibility to protect their students. You can help by imparting your knowledge of security systems and solutions at every opportunity.

This article originally appeared in the January 2014 issue of Security Today.

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