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Virtually every school requires staff members to wear ID badges which are usually displayed on a lanyard. The purpose, as far as we know, is to enable students, other staff members and emergency services personnel to validate that the person is a staff member who works in the building or for the district.
Many schools, if not all, require visitors to sign in and wear a badge while visiting a school. In many schools, that badge is simply a "stick on" visitor badge, in other schools, visitors can have their drivers license scanned into a visitor management system which generates a badge with their photo on it, as you see here.
This week we visited a school district that takes visitor management a step further and we thought it was a great idea.
Staff members wear blue lanyards with their ID attached to it. Visitors are given a yellow lanyard to which their visitor sticker is attached. Visitors must wear the lanyard at all times while on the school property.
The improvement is dramatic. Walking through the school, you know that someone with a blue lanyard is a staff member. Someone with a yellow lanyard is a visitor. And someone walking around without a lanyard is someone who needs to be stopped immediately because they may be a threat.
Because the lanyards are colored-colored, it is very easy to identify who is who even from a distance. You don't have to walk right up to me and read my ID to determine if I am a staff member or visitor, you can tell based on the color. And if there is no lanyard, you can keep your distance while determining what you need to do in response.
This system can also help police when responding to an active shooter situation at your school or campus. Blue lanyard tells police you work there, yellow says you're a visitor who has been cleared and if you don't have a lanyard, you may be the threat that the police are looking for.
You might be asking yourself - "How do they get the lanyards back?" Great question. When you get the lanyard, you have to surrender your drivers license or car keys. You can keep the lanyard, but they will keep your license or keys.
Buying color-coded lanyards for your staff and visitors costs virtually nothing. Don't be color blind.
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Within a few minutes of the reported active shooter at Westfield Garden State Plaza in Paramus, NJ on November 4, 2013, our phones were ringing and messages were being received. (Read story here)
"Does Garden State Plaza use Share911?"
"Can Share911 be used at a mall? It seems like it could help."
"How could Share911 help all of these police officers find the shooter?"
All great questions and we thought we would take a moment to explain how we believe Share911 can help in these emergencies.
First, Share911 was developed for exactly these types of situations at a High Occupancy Location (HOL). Garden State Plaza is 2,118,718 sq ft and is the 15th largest mall in the United States. We enable the people who work at that location to use their mobile device or computers to share real-time information with First Responders from wherever they are.
At approximately 9:00 PM, a 20-year-old male party entered the mall and fired at least six rounds from a .22-caliber assault-style rifle. While many shoppers self-evacuated, many others ended up seeking cover and locking down in the 300 stores that make up the shopping center.
Police have a single mission in these instances, find the active shooter as quickly as possible an mitigate the threat. Hundreds of police officers responded to Garden State Plaza and began to search for the shooter. He would later be found dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound at 3:20 AM, nearly 6 hours later, in a remote area of the building.
How could Share911 have helped in this incident and others like it?
By enabling the employees of the shopping center to Check-In using Share911 on their mobile devices or computers in their stores, they can provide police with real-time situational awareness about what they see, where they are and if they see the shooter. They can also report how many people are with them, if anyone is injured or unaccounted for. They can then use Share911 to monitor what is happening around them via LiveView, so they too can benefit from the real-time situational awareness.
Police can monitor LiveView in the command post, on in-vehicle computers or on their own mobile devices, such as iPhones, to see what the employees are sharing in real-time.
Unlike social media platforms such as Twitter, Share911 is a private and secure eco-system, connecting only the employees and the authorized police and First Responders together, reducing noise and information that is not mission critical.
Share911 has proven itself in schools nationwide, where teachers and school employees can now share real-time information with Police and First Responders during school safety incidents of any kind.
"What happened before was that you had employees in a lockdown situation sitting in silence and waiting for help to arrive" says Erik Endress, CEO of OnScene Technologies, which makes Share911. "Those people are not blind, they can be the eyes and ears for the police and First Responders who are on the scene. Malls are no different, you have hundreds, perhaps thousands of store employees in the building, if you give them a way to share mission critical information they will share it, because it may save their life."
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As a company that sells a product to schools, we are often "visitors". In some schools, we find doors unlocked and open, letting us and a potential threat enter unfettered. In the majority of schools, we are greeted by a locked door and an intercom, where we state our business prior to gaining access. After entering the building, we usually fill out a visitor log and get a badge which must be worn at all times.
Recently, we visited Ramsey High School in Ramsey, NJ where this experience was a little different and we think its a great idea worth sharing.
Once we were cleared by the schools electronic Visitor Management System and received our badge, the greeter did something nobody has ever done before, she asked for my car keys.
Why? Because if I am actually there under false pretenses, surrendering my car keys would make it difficult for me to escape. If I have concocted a plan to do something I shouldn't do, this simple request, at the point of entry into the school, could cause me to react negatively, perhaps refusing to turn over my keys, which would alarm people. For instance, if I am hiding a weapon and intent to injure people, not having my car keys will make my escape much harder.
Having to come back to this same checkpoint to get my keys means that school security personnel know when I leave, which is important. If I show up at 9:30 and say that I am there for a meeting with my child's teacher and my keys are still at the checkpoint two hours later, eyebrows should be raised because a two hour visit with a teacher during the school day would be pretty unusual.
Take the keys of your visitors and ask them for their mobile phone number so you have it if you need it. Share911 can integrate with your Visitor Management System to show employees and First Responders the visitors who are currently in your building.
Visitor management shouldn't end with "hello", it should end at "goodbye".