Whitepaper – School Hardening / Safe Campus Initiatives

School Hardening / Safe Campus Initiatives

We don’t want to talk about guns or politics. We only want to address the Safety and Security of our kids when they are at school.

“I can tell you what I’m not going to do…nothing. I am not going to do nothing” – Parents of School shooting victims

The goal is supporting those responsible for Campus Safety, to insure adequate supervision and survivability of Security Systems used for Life Safety mitigation. This goal is considered when designing ‘systems that may be encompassed in a Facility’s Emergency Operations Procedure (EOP).’ A group of Security Industry Professionals have engaged in meaningful discussions regarding Safe Campus / School Hardening initiatives, in recent weeks. This document is intended to share that which has been determined, upon consulting with SMEs across Security, Life Safety, Emergency Operations Planning, Risk Management, Threat Assessment & Predictive Prevention, sectors.

We are committed to not do nothing. We are doing our part to help keep our kids safe at school.

The intent is to:

  • Leverage meaningful changes in ‘Security / Life Safety design, reliability and “deployment during duress” considerations
  • Drive more robust Security / Emergency Communication solutions through Distributed Recipient Mass Notification and redundant power
  • Emphasize the critical nature of a supervised, constant, “Uninterruptable Power Over Ethernet Supply™” for all things IoT
  • Support Safe Campus (School Hardening) initiatives and actively contribute to help make our schools safe again

All agree that the most recent school violence in south Florida is different than those previous, but why? – Responses vary from student to faculty, parents, politicians and Organizations. Those within the Life Safety sector note another key distinction in the Parkland shooting: Media coverage broadcasts across all forms, reported how the Fire Alarm Control Panel (FACP) was used to concentrate targets, save rounds, increase death toll. They told America’s most deviant minds, how to use electronics that are required by Code, to send innocent victims into harm’s way. We condition our children from their first day at Kindergarten, to follow tones / voice evacuation instructions during a Fire Alarm Event (clear lens). Faced with fear, terror, attack, confusion, humans are hard-wired to default to conditioning / training. To make the FACP complicit in mass-murder, is not news to those who operate within the space. We specifically avoid sharing such potentially dangerous, information. Note: A Mass Notification event is distinguished by an amber lens. Facilities with MNEC are trained / conditioned to know the different meanings, as part of an affective, EOP.

This time, it is different. Now, the world knows.

Florida Education space is aggressively capitalizing on the $500mm allocated for heightened Security & EOP. Not specifically, in the area of Mass Notification & Emergency Communications (MNEC), which is inherently designed to be supervised with redundant power.

MNEC – It is both a communications AND emergency management tool to provide real-time instructions and information to building occupants and visitors during an emergency event. Understand the Situation, Validate, Mitigate, Communicate and Manage the Crisis.

MNEC systems are designed to support and execute the Action Plans that are made during facility Risk Assessments. By their nature, each one is unique. The goal of an MNEC system is to provide situational awareness to the system operators. Campus police, Emergency Operations Centers and or, facility management so that they can assess and validate a potential risk, ‘from a safe position.’ Then the system is used to provide authoritative directions to people that may be impacted by the event. MNEC systems are also used post-event, to help restore order and operations. Validated information is the key, then the MNEC solution provides the means to execute the plans.

A MNEC Event is indicated within the red outline, see image below. An Emergency screen overrides non-emergency screen, at Campus Security (others may also be notified simultaneously, ie, Police, Fire, Monitoring Station, Emergency Operations Center (EOC). A series of pre-programmed “Rules & Correlations”, allow named First Responders, to use a Graphical User Interface, to drill down from the ‘area of distress’ (building), to a single device. Smoke / CO / Gunshot detector (Gunshot Detection Companies), IP camera, door lock…and FA pull station.

The User is then empowered to assess the situation, initiate protocol response (see red & yellow below), to include, silencing an active FA/Voice Evac/Horns/Strobes/Messaging. Only then, is he/she in a position to use those same resources / appliances to save lives. Upon silencing the False Alarm, a live voice can convey specific information to occupants, first responders and offenders. The location of a shooter, a Rally Point, shelter in place, imminent harm to first responders is critical, and can be distributed to dedicated channels. Systems / devices that are essential to a MNEC deployment, are supervised & with redundant power sources factored. Audible and Intelligible Signaling is required for the protected space.

MNEC backbone is most commonly, the Fire Alarm System. Largely due to its inherent design to withstand fire, and because it is Supervised. It is designed to report a change of state, due to its critical role in Life Safety and Code Requirements. It provides a constant notice as to when it is, or is not, fully functional.

The FACP is also routinely tested, inspected & maintenance records are made public record. Liability and Responsibility is assigned.

Per NFPA72 Fire Code, the only code compliant means to silence an active Fire Alarm Notification Circuit, is via over-riding a “Fire” event, with that of a “Mass Notification” type.

MNEC affords those assessing the situation, then executing critical decisions, to do so from a safe position. IP Video is crucial, as are intelligent locks, VOIP phones, WAPS, Radios, Emergency Exit Lighting.
Current Industry Design criteria, does not necessarily include these factors. Such decisions are left to Integrators to whom lowest bid will be awarded, and or, Facilities Staff without sufficient knowledge as to current technology, code, options, standards, experience.

Absent a Code Compliant (MNEC) System, video, security, intrusion, detectors, call boxes, panic buttons, paging / VOIP phones, intelligent locks are not required to be supervised, monitored, inspected nor designed to operate while off-grid power.

Sophisticated video analytics, intelligent locks, WAPs, Radios, Microphones, Paging Speakers, VOIP phones and other Edge¹ Devices (L), are rendered ineffective / compromised, in the absence of a constant, uninterruptable power source. These systems could pro-actively report their state / condition to those responsible for Campus / Student Safety, as do FACPs.

While those devices/systems play a dependent role in a Facility’s Emergency Operations Procedure (EOP), there is no Code requirement, design standard, initiative to harden systems other than Fire / MNEC.

“Edge Device Technology” is a common term within the Security space. Those in the business, know what it refers to. When asked, Key Decision Makers at Schools, did not.

In the months that followed 2017 hurricanes, Florida adopted a law requiring Nursing Homes / ALFs to maintain adequate stationary (off-grid) power, to insure sufficient air cooling & ventilation for occupants for a minimum of 8 hours. Something seemingly rational after the fact, was not addressed until many lives were lost. Each one was avoidable. Steps were taken towards reducing the likelihood of the same situation to recur.

Together, we can deliver solutions to support, “Constant & Redundant”, power requirements for edge devices.

Let’s make schools safe again. Together, we can.

Currently, Emergency Operations Planning is inclusive of sensitive electronics without redundant power / hardening considerations.

Problems with this include, “Combat Rule #1 – Disrupt Power & Communications to leverage an immediate advantage over the Target”. End Users may not be as knowledgeable as those willing to support their efforts. There is an assumption that ‘mission critical’ systems will always fully function when needed, even during off-grid periods, though without any means to assure that they will, let us not make this assumption in future design criteria for School Safety. Decision makers are investing in highly sophisticated electronics. None of which are inherently designed to operate continuously, without a constant power source.

‘Not Nothing’: Involves a Coalition² of like-minded ears, minds and contributors. Coalition Partners include: Respected professional SMEs with qualifications in Security / Life Safety, MNEC deployment within Higher Education. We are an available source of vast, real-world experience as Vulnerability Assessment & Risk Management professionals.

¹An edge device is a device which provides an entry point into enterprise or service provider core networks. Examples include routers, routing switches, integrated access devices (IADs), multiplexers, and a variety of metropolitan area network (MAN) and wide area network (WAN) access devices.  ²Coalition Partners: gain consent

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *