Gun violence in U.S. schools has become more common, making school safety devices increasingly important for faculty, administrators, students, and parents.
According to Ballotpedia, there have been 192 U.S. school shootings from 1990 through May 30, 2018. Schools have responded with increased school resource officers, campus police, limited access to school buildings, surveillance cameras, metal detectors, and even arming teachers or other school personnel. The Blue Mountain School District in Pennsylvania has put five-gallon buckets full of river stones in classroom closets so students can fight back against intruders. New safety devices are being developed at varying levels of sophistication and affordability, making it difficult to know what’s available and which devices are right for your school. We’ve sorted the most popular into three categories to help you understand the different options and make important decisions to protect your students.
1. Door Stops and Locks
Just stopping an intruder from entering a classroom is a good first step to protecting students. Justin Rivard, a Wisconsin teenager, has created a steel product called “JustinKase” that latches to the door frame to bar entry. A group of Iowa teachers and administrators created a safety device called “The Sleeve,” which slides over a door’s metal arm or hinge located at the top of many classroom doors to prevent it from opening. Their company, Fighting Chance Solutions, sells the product. A similar safety device called “DeadStop,” created by a group of students at Benjamin Banneker Academic High School in Washington, D.C., is a small plastic cylinder that goes over the classroom door closer to prevent the door from being opened. “Fire Door Armor” is another safety device that attaches to the bottom of a classroom door and not only secures the door against 5,000 pounds of pressure and direct bullet hits, but also contains a wireless device to notify emergency services and the school speaker system to inform school officials to lock down the school building.
If these safety devices are too expensive or require approval from administrators to purchase or install, there are low-tech options available as well. One of the simplest and most effective is a standard rubber doorstop, available at most dollar stores. If there is a disturbance at your school, simply jam the doorstop under your classroom door from the inside to prevent it from opening.
2. Wearable Devices
Parents, too, are worried about their children’s safety and have investigated safety devices they can provide their kids to keep them safe. Bulletproof backpacks, such as those made by BulletBlocker, stop bullets shot from handguns or pistols. They can last up to five years, but these products are expensive to purchase. “Jiobit” is a GPS tracking device for kids that lets parents know their child’s location through an app. If there is a school emergency, parents will know exactly where their child is.
3. Technological Devices
Some simple safety devices which can be used to improve communication in a school emergency include two-way radios and computer desktop alerts. More advanced inventions include “ShotSpotter” which detects gunfire through a series of microphones and sends an audio recording to be analyzed. Local police are alerted with the results in 30 seconds to the location of a shooter, the type of gun being used, and other information about the situation. School panic button alert systems such as the SkyAngel911FD provides direct 911 access with the press of one button. An app called Share911 allows users to share the exact location of an incident from wherever they are and instantly notify others within the building. Users can also broadcast updates in real time.
While none of us want to think about violence occurring in our schools, being prepared for this type of emergency can save countless lives. If your school or district doesn’t already have one, consider forming a crisis team to make decisions about safety devices, procedures, and preventive strategies. Find out how here.