Last month for rAVe Ed, I wrote an article about school safety. I was inspired by the Parkland students, who suffered a horrible tragedy and decided to do something to make sure others did not have to suffer a similar tragedy. I specifically avoided talking politics and law. I think there is a place for that, but this is not it. I had a vision where those of us in the AV industry could use our skills, talents and numbers to help make schools safer. When I wrote it, I realized it was a huge ask and may not be very likely, but I dared to dream. The morning after the article was first published, I heard from a friend in the industry. He had read the article and was inspired by it. He wanted to host a podcast to try and publicize the idea, and asked if I would discuss my article. I jumped at it! Anything to get this moving. He spoke with another friend in the industry (the amazing Gina Sansivero) and she told him about a group that already existed, the Partner Alliance for Safer Schools (PASS). By the end of the week my friend and Gina were hosting a podcast with me and Chuck Wilson of the NCSA. Chuck is the creator of PASS and after an hour with him, I realized that I needed to make sure everyone in the industry knew about this organization.
Chuck Wilson started by spending a few minutes discussing how PASS got started. Chuck had spent a day visiting an inner city Chicago high school. As he walked the school and the surrounding neighborhood, he wondered how students could go there everyday and feel safe. On the way home he made a call to SIA (Security Industry Association) and by the time he was done his drive home that day, NCSA and SIA had created PASS.
PASS currently provides resources for anyone who is interested in helping with school safety. They provide a checklist/assessment for integrators who are doing a school visit. They also provide outlines for four tiers of security over the different layers of a school. This includes everything from the parking lot to the individual classroom. Additionally, they provide estimated costs for each tier of the security protocol based on the square footage of the school. These are powerful tools for integrators and for school administrators and staff. Because the information provided by PASS is manufacturer-agnostic (and in some cases does not involve technology at all), you can provide services no matter who is on your line card. Second, because it’s developed by experts in the field, it’s truly a legitimate, well thought out process for creating safer schools. As an integrator you won’t feel like you are walking blind into a site visit, and you won’t be worried about whether you are giving accurate information.
This is important for school districts for many similar reasons. Money is a critical issue in any public school in this country. Many schools can not afford to hire expensive consultants and then have to write their own RFPs for equipment. By being able to deal with a trusted integrator, they save that precious money and put it to use for change. Additionally, the schools will know they are also following well-established guidelines. They can choose tiers based on the threats they feel are most likely and what they can afford to complete. Finally, they can do the work over a period of time that is affordable and can do it from the tiers. As an added bonus, to start looking into this information, the school does not have to spend money. Everything from PASS is provided free of cost.
Chuck Wilson and the other dedicated volunteers at PASS have already done something that I only hoped was possible. As a community, we need to support PASS in several ways. First, we need to use their tools and direct school districts to their site. This will help PASS and, most important, help the schools. Second, we can spread the word about PASS and support them financially. At InfoComm this year, a fundraiser put on by NCSA — the Drunk Unkles concert — will help support the PASS organization. Spread the word about the concert and fill up the venue.
I try not to write about the same topic very often. And I certainly try not to do it in back to back months. However, this is just too important and the work that has already been done is just too exciting. One comment from Chuck during our conversation stuck with me. We were talking about whether this is at all possible — could we secure every public school in the country? Chuck pointed out that about 50 years ago, fire alarm and suppression systems became code in all schools. Since that time, codes have not only been implemented across the country, but we have also not lost a single student in a school fire. Chuck envisions the same happening with school security. So, yes, with ALL of our help, this is possible.