The AV Industry Should Lead in Improving School Safety

In rAVe Ed, we read about technologies that help teachers reach their students in new and improved ways. On occasion, we have written about how technologies in schools can also improve the safety of schools. In light of the recent violence in Florida and regular violence in schools in this country, I think we, as an industry, need to take a more aggressive stance towards stopping the violence. Rather than getting into thorny political debates, I think there are a lot of things we can do as an industry to begin to make our children safer.

Why our industry? Because many of the tools that will be used to stop violence are ones that we will provide. Cameras, microphones, remote control capabilities, design, programming and entry control are all things that are a part of our industry. We are the experts in these areas. Let’s put it to work.

I propose that AVIXA start this process by creating an ad-hoc committee to consider technologies to improve safety in schools. The first charge of the committee would be to identify equipment on the market that can be used in improving school safety. This would range from cameras, to lapel mics with emergency buttons to emergency signage to facial recognition systems. All of this equipment would be put together on a website and presented in a way that is easy for even non-technical people to understand. Having a resource that provided this equipment all in one place would make the job of an integrator easier when discussing costs and options with schools. Second, the committee would create equipment agnostic plans for school safety. These plans would range from inexpensive to more costly options. Examples would include designs for emergency communication systems and video surveillance systems. While access control and security are not directly part of our industry, many consultants have this as part of their business. Therefore, making recommendations for basic levels of secure access would be another role of the committee. It is understood that architecture of various schools and other factors would affect such designs. However, we could follow the idea of the “Dashboard for Controls” that AVIXA put out years ago and made general recommendations. Finally, and maybe most importantly I propose the committee would coordinate and then lead a system of volunteers to help put these technologies into schools.

I call on all of us in the industry to use our skills and knowledge for the best. Let’s consider improving safety in our schools, not as an opportunity to increase revenue, but rather an opportunity to do the right thing. Let’s consider as an industry getting together and volunteering our time, skills and equipment to actually do something. While trying to get laws changed is honorable and necessary, there are actions that we can take today that could make major differences. Everyone in this industry can participate. The committee, under the auspices of AVIXA, could ask manufacturers to come forward and provide equipment at a reduced cost to the integrator. This could be coordinated in such a way that it was clear the equipment was being used directly to improve school safety. AVIXA would not choose any specific manufacturer to work with, so it would keep its independence. Rather, it would coordinate the system so that integrators and their customers would still be able to choose the equipment that was right for them. With the previously mentioned list of equipment, this would be a much faster process. Part of the program would include integrators then passing these savings directly on to the schools. Designers could use the general recommendations made by the committee to design systems. Ideally, they would do this and donate some of the design time, again reducing the overall cost of these systems. Finally, there are thousands (hundreds of thousands?) of people in the industry to head into the schools on nights or weekends to do some work. I believe it would be extremely fulfilling to take part in volunteer projects that make our schools safer. With the project management skills and leadership skills that abound in our industry, we could take a group of volunteers and get through some work very quickly.

I imagine that most people who read this article would be willing to donate their time, skills and even money to such a project. But I believe a coordinated effort is the best way to do it. That is why I call on AVIXA to be that leader. Everyone believes that there will be more violence in our schools, until something is done to stop it. Personally, I am tired of thinking this is someone else’s issue and it is up to others to fix. Let’s take this opportunity now to know that we are doing something to stop this from happening. If AVIXA feels this is not something that falls within their charge, then I invite any other group to stand up and take the lead. Either way, I am here, and I am ready to get to work.