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Developing a thorough and strategic security plan is a comprehensive, ongoing exercise for any school, especially for colleges and universities that have increasingly been targeted. Balancing security and openness in the same environment can be difficult on sprawling campuses with thousands of students, faculty, and staff.
In an excellent overview of this process published in Security Magazine, author Sarah Ludwig examines a number of fundamentals, illustrated with real-life examples from large institutions. These include:
- Automation and integration of existing equipment, such as phone, PA, alarm panel, and card access systems to enable lockdown initiation from any school phone, text-to-speech messages delivered over the PA, and interior doors that close automatically.
- Partnerships with local law enforcement and emergency services that allow first responders to access areas in lockdown, understand school floor plans in detail, and communicate more easily with school officials in the event of an emergency.
- Emergency notification systems that utilize a variety of channels, including text messages, phone calls, email, and social media in order to broadcast notifications faster and more broadly.
The program components in the article are concerned with events that have already begun. School leadership, along with their security teams, should also consider new ways to learn about potential threats earlier — gaining extra time that gives schools a “longer runway” to prepare an effective response.
Real-time alerts from Dataminr can be extremely helpful in this way. The technology combines machine learning, natural language processing, and proprietary algorithms to find critical breaking information within public social media content. When a high-impact event is identified, it becomes an alert that is delivered to users according to their customized preferences.
Severe weather, active shooters, bomb threats, and notifications from local law enforcement are just a few examples of alerts that arrive through Dataminr, often earlier than traditional sources. Knowing about critical events sooner — ultimately makes it easier for schools to make quick decisions, notify the campus, and execute security protocols efficiently.