School safety goes beyond video surveillance cameras

   Cameron Mazza, March 7 2022
3 mins

If someone told you five years ago that in 2022, students would be itching to go back to school, you wouldn’t believe them. But perhaps none of us are as excited to take a break from Zoom as our children. To many parents’ rejoice, each day, more and more students are returning to classrooms for in-person instruction. 

With this return, staff and administrators are keeping safety concerns top of mind—but in more ways than simply preventing COVID outbreaks.

Physical security remains the priority for keeping schools safe. Even though more than 80% of public schools employ security cameras on their campuses, more than half of students feel their schools are underprepared to deal with emergent incidents. 

It is not enough to just have security camera systems. If they are not being maintained or alerting security immediately, they can often only be used to identify perpetrators of past incidents. When an intruder enters a hallway or walks on campus, real-time alerts are some of the best ways to neutralize a threat.

Preventing student vaping continues to be a priority

Even with cameras in place, two major risks to student safety often remain unaddressed: smoking and vaping.  

Today, one in five high school students vapes. Even though vaping is not as dangerous to health as smoking, false wisdom that it is risk-free continues to percolate through society. According to John’s Hopkins Medicine, vaping is both as addictive as cigarettes and still damages the developing hearts and lungs of teenagers.

But how could security cameras stop or identify students vaping in hallways or bathrooms during class? Well, in truth, they can’t. That’s where sensors come in. And this is where video security and sensor technology working together can offer a school administrator a full picture of events taking place on school premises.

New progress in sensor technology fills the gaps where cameras can’t be placed due to physical barriers, legal concerns, or privacy considerations. Devices such as Halo Smart sensors can detect various chemicals or changes in air quality. Even smokeless devices emit measurable amounts of toxic chemical signatures that can be detected by sensor technology. These sensors can differentiate between e-cigarette vapor, cigarette smoke, THC, and more—alerting school security to locations where students may be smoking or vaping. 

They don’t stop there.

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Receive instant alerts based on sensor data

Sensors can also detect various types of sounds and coordinate responses with predetermined rule sets. They can identify between unique noises such as yelling (think: bullying or an escalating fight), glass breaking, gunshots, and calls for help. Not only does this make schools safer, but it can help scale administrator response to incidents appropriately so that resources are not over-devoted to minor events. 

Mitigating harm in the academic environment is always the top priority. And it includes everything from smoking to intruders and more, so cameras or sensors on their own are not enough. That’s why Ava has integrated the two, combining both in the Ava Aware Cloud® platform. Now, alerts and rulesets span across smart security cameras—that can create heat maps, recognize individuals, and leverage machine learning—as well as sensors that can bridge the gaps. 

Take the following scenario for example a student leaves to use the restroom during his calculus class. He goes into a stall and uses his e-cigarette, thinking no one can track him. Of course, there are no cameras inside the restrooms (privacy is and will always be vital), but there might be sensors. Immediately, these sensors can detect the volatile organic compounds in his exhalations, and notify the security team that e-cigarette vapor has been detected in the E hall restrooms. Security might not have time to intersect the student on his way back to class, but with their integrated Ava cameras, they can easily search the event of the student entering.  The administrators can be alerted in real-time, and depending on school policy, determine the appropriate course of action.

But the use cases don’t end with smoke or vapor detection.

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Act on other unseen threats

Between sensors and cameras, schools can help put a stop to physical bullying and other forms of physical or verbal aggression. They can determine if cleaning or chemical fumes are too concentrated in a crowded closed walkway. They can sense changes in air quality to alert an administrator to a smoldering trash bin that hasn’t yet caught on fire. They can determine if temperatures are too high in server rooms or refrigerated areas. The possibilities stop where imagination ends. 

With a future of integrated sensors and cloud-native cameras, schools can work towards being safer than ever before. Learn how.