Embracing the World of Technology for the Safety of our Students

Many feel as if our beloved country and our children are under ever greater attack, and if you fall into this category of belief you would be spot on. This can be seen primarily in the violence inflicted upon our children in our schools. Not a single child has been killed by school fire in the U.S. in over half a century but, according to the U.S. Department of Justice’s report on school crime and safety, there were 57 “school-associated violent deaths” in our schools in 1997. In 2006, we had a new all-time-record of 63 violent deaths. The federal report is not yet available for the year of the mass murder in Sandy Hook Elementary School, in Newtown Connecticut, but with 27 bodies in that school, there can be no doubt that year will mark a new record body-count in our schools.

See the statistics at HERE and HERE.

We can count the number of children murdered in our schools, and we know that this number is rising. In the same we know that, more than ever, our children are being bullied, hazed and threatened while in school. Much of this is due to social media and the violence children are exposed to in the media. It seems like children are simply not being “kids” anymore. When was the last time your child went outside to play hide-n-seek or swung from a rope, maybe climbed a tree? If you have to stop and think about it, it was probably too long ago. Our children have isolated themselves and now live in the world of violent video games, movies and social media which continues to be a factor in the epidemic of violence we are seeing in our schools.

Our country’s most common act of domestic terrorism has been coined an “active shooter” but this really should more accurately be called an “active mass-murder.” These senseless acts of violence continue to crumble the foundation of our nation, and we see the numbers of these incidents grow every year. There has been considerable discussion about the “prevention” of these crimes, but if you ask me the key issue is not so much “prevention” but rather “preparation” for when the next one occurs. Schools MUST be prepared for an act of terrorism and they MUST act quickly when faced with it. Denial is a “save now, pay later scheme” and if schools fall into the “denial world” they need a quick wake-up, since we have seen time and time again, that it CAN happen anywhere! It bears repeating, that there has not been a child killed in our country from a K-12 school fire in over 50 years, yet there have been hundreds of kids killed and injured due to school violence over the past decade! There are codes, and signs, and plans, and construction, and mandates, etc. which all act to prevent fatalities when it comes to a school fire. We now need to focus this same preparedness concept towards school violence.

There is ONE common conclusion that can be drawn from EVERY ONE of these massacres: a shorter police response time can and WILL save lives. Ever since the massacre at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, law enforcement agencies have changed their methodology for response to these threats. Instead of arriving, setting up an inner and outer perimeter, and trying to mitigate and negotiate the situation (which does not work) while they wait for the SWAT team to arrive, law enforcement now understands there is NO mitigating or negotiating in response to an “active mass-murder” as this killer has one thing in mind: to kill and injure as many people as they can, in a limited amount of time. (Like a video game where they received “points” for their rampage, and like violent media that has trained and inspired them to commit these brutal murders). In today’s world, our law enforcement agencies have adapted somewhat of a universal response plan, in which they now rush to the scene once notified and enter the premises actively searching for the killer in order to neutralize the threat and minimize the bodycount. The question remains, “How can we expedite the notification and response process, so that the men and women in blue can save our children when the unthinkable happens again?”

As much as technology has contributed to this situation (through media violence and violent video games), technology has also created a path for us to reduce the notification process, thus reducing the police response time when tragedy strikes.

Think about it: the first people to know of an active mass-murder emergency are the people present at the situation. Mobile technology and social media have conditioned us to use these tools to post information, alert family members, take pictures, etc. Sometimes this happens BEFORE we think to notify law enforcement! As a quick psychology lesson, we have a conscious mind and a subconscious mind. Our conscious mind is the mind we think with, analyze with and make decisions with. Our subconscious mind is by far more powerful as it is controlled by our autonomic nervous system (things we have no control over). When faced with sudden, chaotic, stressful events, if we have not rehearsed or prepared for that situation (as we have done through fire drills, where every child knows exactly what to do, due to continuous training, and has the proper response embedded within the subconscious) our conscious mind will not know what to do, and we will default to the subconscious mind to take over. Too often, however, there is no data in our subconscious mind due to no responses drilled into the subconscious ahead of time, when it comes to violence, because we have lived in denial and have not prepared ourselves for this possibility. In this case, odds are good that we will become a possible victim or a grim “statistic” in future reports on school violence.

Thus, we must train ourselves, condition ourselves, to not only be prepared, but also to notify law enforcement as quickly as possible in order to shorten the police response time and save lives. The negative aspects of modern technology also comes with some positives, and there is now a way to expedite the police notification process through a set of reporting and response tolls pioneered by a company called Guard911.

We know that these horrific incidents are usually very short-lived. Studies tell us that an average murder rampage will last only 5-12 minutes while the average police response is usually upwards to 10 minutes or more. Using technology and geocoding, Guard911 (www.Guard911.com) has created a mobile “panic button” in the means of a smartphone ‘app.’ It essentially places this mobile panic button in the hands of all teachers and staff. Created by a team of law enforcement officers and technology experts, it is now backed by one of the world’s leading experts in school related violence and our nation’s most sought out police trainer, Lt. Colonel Dave Grossman (www.Killology.com).

If you pull the fire alarm, the fire responders know instantly that there is a fire, and where the fire is located. Compare this to the steps that a teacher or school administrator has to go through to report an act of violence. First, you have to dial 911, but during stressful situations there is significant reduction in: fine motor control, near vision, and color vision, which can make it extremely difficult to perform the life-saving act of dialing 911. (Incidently, the only color that we can reliably see under stress is red, which is why fire alarms, fire exits, and fire extinguishers are always painted red). Then you have to explain what is happening, and where it is happening, but, again, during stress even these simple tasks can be extremely difficult. Clearly, there is a desperate need for a tool, a piece of technology that allows us to immediately report an act of violence, just as the fire alarm does for fire which is all activated effortlessly through a subconscious thought we mentioned earlier as your mind has been preprogrammed to act.

This Guard911 “app” has many daily features, but the most important aspect of the app does several things simultaneously, simply by pushing one big red “button” on your cell phone. First, it speed-dials 911 for the “activator” to inform the police about the situation. As the activator is waiting to speak to the 911 operator, the ‘app’ has already alerted all other users on property, providing them with a mapped location of the initial alert for situational awareness. The app has also alerted other properties within a 5 mile radius (as 20% of “spree killers” are said to go mobile) and while the activator is still waiting to speak with 911 the ‘app’ has already alerted law enforcement officers, on or off duty, who had downloaded a sister app which is free and exclusive to police called Hero911 (www.Hero911.org). This technology will speed up the notification process, thus reducing seconds if not minutes in police response time. As we all know, Seconds Save Lives!

Love technology or hate it, we live in a technological world, and we must learn to embrace it and apply it, in order to apply best practices to save lives. Children are posting these horrific events on social media before police are informed, because they are “preprogrammed” to do so. Thus we too must find a way to “preprogram” ourselves to use available technology to combat this epidemic.

It is often said that we are “one casualty” away from learning to be more proactive. Meaning that it takes the death of a student in our school before we take it seriously. Must we wait unto someone is murdered in our school? Or can we accept that it CAN happen ANYWHERE? Let us take a page out of the fire-fighter’s book and prepare for violence as we do for fire. Every time you see a big read “exit” sign, a red fire alarm, or a red fire extinguisher, ask yourself, “What have we done to prepare for school violence?”

Denial opens the doors of our schools to future terrorists, extremist groups, and others who would harm our children and further crumble the very foundations of our nation. We MUST get out of the “denial world” and move into reality. We MUST use the tools that we have available to us, in order to prepare for the unthinkable. There are some great tools that schools can add to their life-saving, emergency response “tool belts” and if we love our children, our nation, and our way of life, we MUST actively seek out and apply these tools… Please, let us reject the path of denial, and embrace the life-saving tools of preparation!

“The world is a dangerous place to live, not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it.”

-Albert Einstein