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The Need for Enterprise Mobile Duress

The Need for Enterprise Mobile Duress

Everyday violence often goes unaddressed

When most people think of school violence, they immediately think of school shootings. The media saturation that covers these shootings makes it unavoidable. however, school shootings are only the most extreme and rarest example of school violence. Everyday violence in K-12 schools goes largely unaddressed and can lead to catastrophic consequences if intervention is not forthcoming.

A look at recent statistics reveals the rising concern over increased violence in K-12 settings and some of the probable causes:

  • Bullying. A 2000 study from the U.S. Secret Service found that two-thirds of school shootings had been perpetrated by students who had been bullied or persecuted by classmates.
  • Suicide and self-injury. Roughly 4,500 young people commit suicide every year; this translates into 12 lives lost every day. In fact, a 2012 study from the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine found that bullying more than doubled the risk of suicidal thoughts. A second study that compiled media reports of 41 high-profile teen suicides found that 78 percent of the teens had experienced bullying at school. And, every year, some 149,000 young people receive medical care for self-inflicted injuries.
  • Teacher attrition. Up to 80 percent of all teachers report having been victimized at least once in the previous year. While those victimizations include harassment and property crimes, a quarter of all teachers describe being physically attacked. Not all victimizations are committed by students, either; one in five teachers report being victimized by a parent.

When violence or bullying occurs at a school, teachers are usually the first on the scene. In fact, teachers are often the only responders available. Fewer than half of all schools have a registered nurse on staff, and fewer than that have social workers, which is recommended by No Child Left Behind. And, though a student-to-psychologist ratio of 1,000 to 1 is recommended by the National Association of School Psychologists, the average is more like 1,600 to 1. Likewise, only one-third of all schools have armed security staff onsite.

Noted psychologist and author Kathy Sexton- Radek frames the issue perfectly: “With more than one-third of the deaths of children, adolescents and young adults resulting from violence, intervention is essential.”

Therefore, intervention as events escalate can be more important than the response once violence strikes. And, because teachers are typically already present on the scene, they are often the only ones situated to intervene during a crisis that is escalating toward violence.

Prevention Programs: Security as a Solution

Given what we know about the toll that violence and bullying takes on students and staff, we have an obligation to do everything we can to prevent these complex problems that have untold consequences on a school as a whole. Practical measures for intervention include everything from bullying prevention programs to funding to increased security infrastructure.

One infrastructure option that schools are exploring is the panic button, designed to allow teachers to summon response teams to intervene when threats and/or escalating events are spotted. Teachers are likely to be the first responders and if they are unable to effectively deal with the situation on their own, they must have a clear way to contact an intervention team composed of staff members trained in dealing with violence in order to successfully manage a potentially dangerous situation.

In the words of the Department of Education (DOE), a key component of any crisis response plan must include an, “effective, fool-proof communication system” for internal support as well as a “process for securing immediate external support from law enforcement officials and other relevant community agencies.”

The uncomfortable reality is that once violence has struck, most of the options for dealing with it have already disappeared. So, the most effective method for coping with violence is to intervene before it begins.

Enterprise Mobile Duress (EMD) as a Security Solution

EMD provides a method for coordinating the delivery of alarms so that the right information is delivered to the right responders. Additionally, if some or all of those people are unavailable, delivery can then proceed to others who are capable of dealing with the escalating event. How EMD works. Once an enterprise mobile duress system is in place, each teacher and staff member carries a wireless transmitter to be activated in case of an emergency event. This could be when a teacher or other staff member considers his or herself to be in imminent danger, needs immediate assistance or becomes aware of a broader emergency event.

Repeaters located throughout the building ensure that the signal is carried to a receiver, which would disseminate the alarm to the appropriate personnel, whether internal or external, who can respond as needed.

The following three requirements are musts for a mobile duress alarm system:

Reliability. As indicated by the DOE’s criteria of a “fool-proof communication system,” there is no requirement for a mobile duress alarm system more important than reliability. The wireless infrastructure of any mobile duress alarm system must be able to withstand RF interference, overcome obstacles due to construction and guarantee multiple paths from the alarm device to the receiver. The importance of reliability in life safety applications is impossible to overstate.

Adaptive notification. Due to the nature of emergency events in K-12 schools, it is not sufficient that an alarm be sent only to a central station or a single command center for the summoning of external help. Systems must also be able to route alarms to internal response teams. As such, alarm events must be able to be sent to a wide variety of devices so that internal response can be immediate.

The devices that can receive alerts must be as broad as possible to match the usage of individual recipients. These should include, but are not be limited to: telephones or cell phones; using voice and text; pagers; two-way radios; public address systems and email.

The system must also provide a method for coordinating the delivery of alarms. Alarms must be delivered to the right people, and if some or all of those people are unavailable, delivery must then proceed to others able to deal with the emergency situation. Since different people will be available at different times, the system must allow for different alerting actions based on the time of day or day of the week.

Location. A mobile duress alarm system is of greatest use when it provides the location of alarms, especially in a campus setting. This is because teachers and staff are inherently mobile and the data clearly shows that most everyday violence and bullying occurs in locations away from the classroom, such as common areas or hallways.

Nobody knows the extent of everyday violence better than K-12 teachers and staff. The emergency events that occur on K-12 campuses are as complicated as the student body itself. Everyday violence can arise from a nearly infinite number of causes, even from a member of the community who happens to be in contact with a school.

All too often teachers and staff are not just the first responders, but the only responders. They must have the training and tools necessary to keep themselves and their students safe. An enterprise mobile duress solution can provide the most critical component of a physical security system: the ability for teachers to summon help where it is needed, when it is needed.

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

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