Interoperability: Why schools need it for safety plans

 
By Danielle Myers
General Manager, Status Solutions
October 21st, 2019

With safety at the top of school administration’s priority list, rapid development of new technology and ever-changing ways of disseminating information to keep students and faculty safe are coming into the light.

Schools are decked out with cameras, door access control, and a multitude of other monitoring systems, however, one of the most important aspects to an effective school safety and risk management plan is often overlooked: interoperability.

Put simply, interoperability is the ability for technological systems to effectively communicate with one another.

To conceptualize this, let’s think of a school safety plan as a puzzle. When solving a puzzle, you know you’re building towards a bigger picture, but in the meantime, all you have are the individual pieces. Within a school safety plan, these pieces represent the video cameras, door access control systems, computer monitors, fire alarms, PA systems, and any other technology systems implemented.

Separately, they are only a fraction of something larger than themselves. It’s not until they’re all put together that they are able to form the bigger picture to function as integral parts of the school safety plan. For a school to have an efficient safety plan, their technology systems have to operate as a whole rather than individually. Siloed technology systems do not form an effective safety plan.

For a fully developed, effective safety strategy, the safety technologies must work together to provide people with the critical information they need to properly respond to any and all situations that endanger school faculty, students, or property.

The connectivity and communication pieces are why interoperability is so important. Interoperability holds everything together and most importantly, relays the message. It gives a school’s door access system the ability to communicate with the video cameras, and the video cameras the ability to communicate with the computer monitors. Once these systems are connected, actual safety measures/protocols can be implemented.

For example, if a guest wants to enter the school, they would buzz in through the door access control system and instantly have access. With interoperability, rather than the safety plan stopping there, once the door was buzzed, the cameras would be triggered to transmit live video feed to a faculty member’s computer monitor. Now that faculty member is able to see the person and they can make a safe and informed decision to either let them enter the premises.

This not only improves safety, but also saves time — another precious school resource. Instead of a designated faculty member physically monitoring entry ways, they can do so remotely without ever needing to be in physical view of the entryway. The same concept can be applied to many other situations that occur daily on school campuses.

Because interoperability takes school’s individual safety systems and helps to turn them into functioning parts of their overall safety plan, administrators are able to get the most out of their existing technology. All of these systems are already useful, and installing new technology is a great first step, but with interoperability you can be sure to maximize both new and existing technology.

Rather than school administration focusing on installing more and more hardware, they should be attentive to streamlining the communication between their existing systems. This way their school’s safety plan can be more effective than ever and is sure to meet its full potential.

Security cameras, door locks, and other systems are only as good as their utilization—it’s up to administrators to ensure they are being used as more than a quick fix, and are actually contributing to their continuous endeavor for school safety.

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