Traditional emergency mass notification systems for schools and organizations are designed to send fast and reliable alerts in crisis situations to mitigate risk. Unfortunately, simply notifying people is not always enough. Organizations not only need to inform those who could be impacted, but also engage them, manage the situation, and share intelligence with first responders. Even better, what if an organization could prevent the incident from happening in the first place?
If you haven't heard the news, the mobile safety app LiveSafe was acquired by Vector Solutions, an e-learning and performance management provider. While we can't know all the reasons for the sale, we can certainly speculate how business might look given the dirty little secret of app-based systems like LiveSafe. Customers may want to take this opportunity to reevaluate their options, as technologies are often discontinued or underfunded in these situations.
September is National Preparedness Month (NPM) and a reminder that we need to be prepared for future critical events. “Disasters don’t wait, make your plan today” is a fitting theme for 2020. Right now, there is a trifecta of crises hitting the United States, including wildfires, hurricanes, and the ongoing pandemic with flu season on the brink. Organizations and schools are questioning whether they are prepared with an effective emergency plan and the best communication tools to handle these situations.
While you may not see as many active shooter incidents in the news lately, they have certainly not gone away. COVID-19 has superseded active shooter events in the media. The numbers are currently down in schools to some extent due to distance learning in the fall 2020 semester, but in the long term there has been an increasing trend in active killer situations. We still need to be mindful of these critical incidents as students, faculty, and staff return to their college campus.
We recently teamed up with the safety experts at Margolis Healy to present “Clery Act Compliance: Risk and the Current Environment.” The webinar examined the Clery Act, reviewed its history, structure, and best practices for compliance, as well as its enforcement in a world of virtual learning.
Popular depictions of school shootings have become more frequent as campuses have seen an increase in active shooter scenarios in the past decade. The first popular TV show to tackle the issue was Glee in the episode "Shooting Star." Aired in 2013, only a few months after the Sandy Hook shooting, the episode was controversial and derided as insensitive.
Shooting Star illustrates what lock downs shouldn’t be. The episode’s premise is that two shots are fired within William McKinley High School during classes, initiating a lock down. It is unclear as to whether or not there is an individual actively engaged in an attack on the campus. Protagonists huddle inside the glee room, bathroom stalls, and outside the building, spending hours of evacuation calling their friends and issuing dramatic farewells. The next day, local law enforcement searches the school and lead students through rigorous screening to enter the building, but the fear of an armed student unsettles everyone. Eventually, it is revealed that the shots were fired accidentally by a girl who brought her father’s firearm to school without the intention to harm anyone.
Even though Glee’s dramatic rendition is fictional, similar school shootings cases of active shooters have occurred across the country. Even when no students are harmed, the realization that school is no longer safe takes a mental toll. Drawing some key lessons from Shooting Star and where McKinley High failed can help address real life active shooter scenarios in the future.
The primary concern with McKinley High’s response was the absence of any alarm or warning of danger on campus. Everyone seems to hear the shots and run for cover, but in reality many students would be in the dark without an announcement. Even the students who heard the shots debate whether they were from a gun.
The depiction of a school shooting was realistic in that some students are forced to take shelter in bathrooms and less secure places. These students are especially at risk because they are relatively exposed and cut off from information. Solo, they are unaware if the shooter has entered the building, if it is safe to leave, or if the situation has been resolved. If there was really an aggressor attempting to kill victims with a random method of selection, they would be in more danger than their classmates behind locked doors.
To its credit, Shooting Star highlights how lock downs have impacts beyond students stuck in schools, as those who have been evacuated outside search frantically for their friends. Many of the protagonists confined inside the school to try to be heroes, leaving the glee room to look for their missing classmates with a false sense of confidence as the silence after the gun shots drags on, even as law enforcement officers and SWAT teams sweep the building.
The most important lesson and the most impactful illustration the episode offers is how the students reach out to teachers, friends, classmates, and loved ones. Teachers ask them to get the word out by calling, texting, and posting on social media. Kids convey most of the information to each other and are even responsible for calling the police. Students looking for missing friends who are away from their phones fear for their safety, and most information that comes in is hearsay and unreliable, causing greater panic.