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Future of Public Safety

How We Can Improve School Safety With Unified Communications

Photo: Courtesy of Pawel Czerwinski

Classroom-based communication systems vary widely in our nation’s schools. In some cases, students carry physical notes, while other schools leverage technology that enables two-way communication with the front office. During emergencies, neither option provides a direct link to law enforcement, creating a situation where students and staff use mobile phones to call 911.

Every classroom needs networked intercoms that are integrated with the school’s phone system, giving faculty a a direct communication line to the administrative office. This ”one-button” approach would be used for daily operations and provide a simple interface for emergency situations when seconds count. By integrating with the phone system, schools could route communications directly to 911 Public Service Access Points. This would allow law enforcement to know which school placed the call and exactly what classroom it came from.

Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) is the technology that enables phone calls to be routed over computer networks. Most schools have adopted this technology through federal grants from the E-rate Program, which provides funding to schools for networking and telecommunications equipment. Intercoms can now connect directly to VoIP systems the same way a phone would, enabling schools to leverage their existing infrastructure.

Intercoms in classrooms exist, but most are simple analog solutions with limited communication options. The National Fire Protection Association updated codes in 2016 to include computer networks as viable mediums for public address and emergency communication systems. This opened new possibilities for integrating intercoms, speakers, digital signage and other devices that are used to communicate with students and faculty during emergencies.  All states and schools should take advantage of this opportunity.

Networked intercoms provide a cost-effective solution because many schools already have the infrastructure installed. In some cases, existing analog intercoms could be reused with the addition of a bridge product to convert their signals to digital ones.

Now that we have the technology to help keep our schools safe, it’s time to start using it.

James Marcella, Director, Industry Associations, Axis Communications, Inc., [email protected]

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