Ask the Expert (Safety and Security)

Can Technology Make Schools Safer?

Safety in schools is a topic heard often in the news, which raises questions about what can be done to further safeguard the learning environment. According to the Indicators of School Crime and Safety: 2016, 65 percent of public schools recorded one or more violent incidents during the 2013-14 school year.

If an attack is threatened or occurs at school, teachers could be alone with a student or unable to notify school authorities that an event is taking place. Typically, a teacher would have to use a phone to make a call or unlock their cell phone to send a text or email. Some schools also use handheld radios to create direct lines of communication. But, all of these options create an obvious visual or audio signal to an attacker that the incident is being reported.

An alternative solution schools should consider for classroom safety is a mobile personal emergency response (mPERS) device. Sometimes referred to as a mobile panic button, these devices are small and lightweight. They can be placed under the desk where they are permanently on. They can be set to “covert” mode where alarms and send immediately with the press of a button. A one-way voice channel is started where trained emergency response operators can clearly hear what is happening, though there is no sound coming from the device.

The mPERS device, can be mobile if the administrator or teacher needs to take it with them on the move. Most devices have days of battery life and can track the whereabouts of the carrier, while keeping the phone call or “voice channel” open for the emergency response team.

In an emergency, a simple press of the single button on the device will send an SOS alert to school authorities or multiple teams, if that is needed. Simultaneously, a phone call is made to trained emergency operators who can assess the situation, locate the individual pressing the button using GPS and other technologies, and dispatch the right assistance quickly.

This article originally appeared in the School Planning & Management February 2018 issue of Spaces4Learning.

About the Author

Chris Holbert, is CEO of SecuraTrac. Find out more at