It is vitally important that the End User, Law Enforcement and Technology, are in sync to execute an effective rapid response program. Since Columbine, billions of dollars have been spent, yet we have witnessed the consistent failures of security measures, policy and technology with every mass shooting. A well-funded program with facility hardening measures and state-of -the-art technology that is not managed by experts who understand response procedures, may ultimately result in a false sense of security and failed response. Once deficiencies are identified, customized, impactful training must soon follow to enhance efficiency.
Moreover, proper controls must be in place to protect against false alerts. The dangers of creating a “cry wolf” mentality cannot be emphasized enough. With the rush to implement systems that bypass 911, multiple tech and security companies have flooded the market. The result has created a false alert trend due in-part by the following reasons:
These and other issues should be researched and understood prior to choosing a fully integrated product. Consulting with former first responders or local law enforcement who are now in the private sector, is the first step. Active Threat preparedness is a very dynamic process. Investing in detailed assessments and experienced guidance should be the first steps before making any purchases.
In August 2019, the AT-EAS was installed at Palm Beach Maritime Academy K-5 and Palm Beach Maritime 6-12 in Lantana, Florida. Alert devices were affixed in the “safe corners” of every classroom and administrative areas/ offices. Siren/strobes were installed throughout the facility so they can be heard from anywhere on campus. This is our standard protocol as dependency of alerting a cellular phone as the primary form of communication to increase “reaction time” for those under attack is not dependable and should only be used as a secondary, redundant alert.
Both schools have been operational for over a year with four successful drills where the AT-EAS was initial notification to the Lantana Police Department and Dispatch that put officers on scene in under a minute from the moment of activation.
Prior to AT-EAS activation, all end users were required to complete a comprehensive training program where they were tested on the understanding of when and when not to activate the system. Lantana PD and Dynamic Safe School Officers participated and continue to participate in this program. A new hire video has been created and annual retraining will be implemented at the beginning of the 2020-2021 school year
In October 2019, a comprehensive Code Red training drill was conducted at both campuses utilizing the AT-EAS as the initial notification to Lantana Officers and Dispatch. The drill also served as a training exercise for students to understand the sights and sound of the AT-EAS and to practice lock-down procedures. The drill also afforded the Lantana PD and Dynamic Safe School Officers to coordinate response.
Upon activation of the AT-EAS, the Safe School Officer, Lantana officers, dispatch and all end-users received SMS notifications in approximately three seconds. The Safe School officer immediately mobilized. Faculty and students were in full lock-down in under 30 seconds. Lantana PD was on scene in under 45 seconds. (note: AT-EAS activation to first Lantana officer on scene less than 60 seconds). As Lantana officers approached the lobby doors and attempted to gain entry, they learned that the access control system had been upgraded and they could not enter the building. Because the school was in lock-down, there was no one to let the officers in as faculty was trained not to open doors until the all clear is given. Lantana officers were also unable to communicate with the Safe School Officer. To add further complications, the school had recently purchased ballistic entry doors to the lobby. The result? Lantana PD could not breach the building in a timely, safe manner.
Client, Technology and Police. If an Active Threat program is going to be implemented, all three of these parts must work cohesively. With good intentions, the school invested in the safety of their faculty and students, but a lack of understanding response and protocol diminished their facility hardening efforts The school has a great relationship with their tech providers and with local law enforcement, yet all three were working independently. This is precisely why these programs need to be facilitated by professionals who plan the entire process all the way through, in order for it to be effective.
The biggest takeaway from Drill 1 was the true understanding of the importance of planning, practice and execution to reveal unforeseen challenges in the plan. Upon observing the drill failure, our team developed a quick resolution that was agreed upon by all parties and immediately implemented. 1) Access control key-cards were programmed and provided to Lantana PD so responding officers can gain access to “all” exterior access controlled doors. 2) A designated radio was put in a secured location for Lantana officers to communicate with the on-site Safe School officer. (Upgraded, universal radio will be implemented in 2020-2021).
Drill 2 ran much smoother. Faculty and student reaction was rapid and law enforcement response was far more efficient as officers were able to make entry into the building in a safe, tactical manner and coordinate with the Safe School officer. The success of this drill will serve as the baseline for future training and is a testament to the invested leadership of the school and the dedication of the Safe School Officers and Lantana PD’s investment to make their local schools as safe as possible. (note: Although many cities are implementing universal access control systems so a master-card can open all doors, the vast majority of towns and cities do not have this technology).