Stephen Nardi: Response Technologies Are a Requisite Part of the Campus Plan

We all noticed something changing with Columbine in 1999. Through 9/11, Virginia Tech, Ft. Hood, Sandy Hook and the Aurora theater shooting, terms like “active shooter” and “lockdown” have made their way into our daily – yes, daily – lexicon. As risks and threats change, so too must your approach to protecting those who operate and frequent your property – be it a shopping center, a school campus, a hospital or a sports stadium.

The phrase “can’t happen here” is obsolete.

Since the turn of this century, the FBI has defined mass shootings as a single attack in which four or more victims were killed. A 2013 mandate from President Obama to study the problem reduced the number to three victims killed. In their database, the New York Times excludes mass murders via robbery, gang violence or domestic abuse in private homes. With these parameters, since 1999, of the 42 mass shootings documented, almost 40 percent occurred on a college campus or school grounds.

With the atrocities at San Bernardino’s Inland Center and at the Bataclan night club and Stade de France in Paris, the definition of target hazard has broadened. Right now every sports facility commission is re-engaging its emergency response plan. There are currently more than 1,350 sports arenas in this country. According to the National Center for Spectator Sports, Safety and Security, only approximately one-third of those are taking all necessary measures to secure themselves.

Most school and campus administrations, as well as facility managers, understand how emergency response protocols and communications procedures tie in with local governments and first responders. But there also are tools and technologies available to property and facility owners and managers that do the same.

The modern emergency response pre-plan program is now all-digital. Moreover, it is shareable between facilities and first responders. An all-digital pre-plan program, such as CommandScope, shares highly detailed property information with first responders so they have easy access to the latest building and occupant characteristics. It leverages cloud-based technology allowing for real-time updates to be accessible even en route to emergencies.

Who are the most vulnerable among your students, faculty and staff? Who may have special needs? What do the floor plans look like? How is the campus laid out? Where are exits and escape routes? Where are the utility shut-off locations?

Having immediate, shareable answers is important, as the first responders in your area may have never conducted a thorough walk-through of your school or campus. And since many fire and police departments in the United States respond via "mutual aid" agreements, across jurisdictional boundaries, the majority of first responders most likely have never stepped foot in your buildings prior to the 911 call.

In 2014, the city of St. Louis began planning with CommandScope, including Busch Stadium in its list of target hazards.  But waiting for local authorities and governments to have all available assets and measures in place isn’t always an option.

In 2012, the University of Connecticut installed CommandScope to assist its fire department in emergencies across the campus. In 2013, Loyola University Chicago implemented use of the program over its main campuses, including Gentile Arena where many of the sports teams play. And then in 2014, Loyola expanded use to all three of its campuses. Since then, Roosevelt University in Chicago also adopted CommandScope for its downtown campus.

In each of these cases, the digital pre-plan is being incorporated into response plans and drills. The technology works side-by-side with cameras, detectors, alarms, communications systems and human intelligence to create a holistic response to emergency situations.

Because, in the end, a “can’t happen here” situation is a situation for which you must be prepared.

— Stephen Nardi, CEO of RealView, developer of the CommandScope pre-plan program, has been involved in corporate real estate for more than 50 years. He is a member of CABA, the NFPA, the Center for Campus Fire Safety and Urban Land Institute, among others.

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