Students are ready to go back to school, but are schools ready for students?


Sadly summer break has come to an end and kids are heading back to school for yet another year of learning. I imagine this comes as a relief to many of you who have spent the last few weeks getting new backpacks, colored folders, and extremely specific calculators to make sure your kids have everything they need for the first day of classes, but don’t sit back and relax just yet, because there is one big thing that’s missing from your list. Situational awareness!


Situational awareness is a risk management strategy and technology framework that is used to improve life safety, security, environmental monitoring and mass notification that can be implemented in schools. Situational awareness allows schools to take appropriate action to prevent, circumvent, and manage potential threats to students, staff, property, and convenience.


We all want to make sure our children are prepared for school but we should also be concerned with whether or not schools are prepared for our children. We put our trust in administrators and expect them to be able to keep our children safe, but many schools are not prepared for the various day to day incidents that go wrong, much less real emergencies. That’s why we advocate for situational awareness, because it is a great way to ensure schools are able to keep up with all of the different situations that happen inside their walls.


Here are a handful of things that SARA, our Situational Awareness Response Assistant, can do for schools:


  • Enable centralized monitoring, alerting and reporting for all life safety, security and environmental monitoring systems such as door locks, fire alarms, temperature monitors etc. This allows them to be tied together and integrated into one system.
  • Mass notification capabilities to broadcast real-time emergency alerts plus general announcements, courtesy reminders and other content. The people that receive these notifications can include parents, students, staff, law enforcement, EMS and more. 
  • Provides control over which events result in alerts, as well as the form of alerts (text or voice) and the designated delivery devices.
  • Enables teachers to send Quick Messages to other teachers or staff for assistance.
  • Local or premise-based mobile duress with approximate location data through vector mapping.
  • Desktop alerts, including color-coded text and audio. This allows detailed alerts to be sent directly to teachers and staffs’ monitors.
  • Video paging to desktops, including live video from integrated security cameras. 
  • Mobile dashboards for built-in, seamless situational awareness on the go. 
  • In-room portal. This can be used so guests can check in and be monitored within the school, teachers can take attendance, students can sign in and out of the classroom when going to the bathroom, etc.
  • Utilizing data to predict future risks through more personal, proactive and predictive alerting and reporting.
  • Access control. This monitors access to who is allowed in and out of the building and at what times people can have access into the building.
  • Mobile duress/fixed duress throughout the school. Teachers and staff can use these in case of an emergency, for example, a student has an allergic reaction, an intruder in the school, a fight breaks out in the classroom, etc.
  • Hot key application is another way teachers/staff can send out alerts with predetermined keys on their keyboard. For instance if there is an allergic reaction a teacher can type “123” on their keyboard to prompt the appropriate response.


Situational awareness can completely transform a school’s current systems (video cameras, alarms, sensors, etc.) by tying them all together into one smart powerhouse of functionality for communication and access to data, but that is only if parents, students, staff and community members advocate for their safety. So we can get our kids all of the right binders, pencils, and pens but the most important thing we can do is  keep our children safe by equipping schools with the tools they need to do so.