In the Face of Modern Threats, Enterprise Campuses Must Maximize Tech Tools

We live in a world where anything can happen. As a nation, we see more active shooting situations and natural disasters than ever before. These modern threats are impacting enterprise campuses across the nation at unimaginable levels. According to statistics from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and the Department of Justice, victims of workplace violence miss more than 1.8 million days of work annually, causing more than $121 billion in losses for employers.

As the potential for threatening situations across work campuses continues to rise, it is imperative for safety professionals to maximize every possible emergency response tool available to them. Although some situations are highly unpredictable, it is imperative to have a reliable and effective response plan in place to protect everyone in the workplace and minimize potential losses.

Highlighting Our Nation's Flaws
On the first anniversary of the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, recordings of the 911 calls from the time of the shooting underscored the national safety crisis we see in public schools. In this case, unfortunately, the calls students made from their cellphones went to the Coral Springs Police Department rather than the Broward Sheriff's Office in Parkland, causing a major delay in response efforts.

Because of these complications in routing the calls to the right locations, Coral Springs dispatchers had to call Broward County 911 to relay all of the information and ensure that they dispatched officers to the location of the shooting. What took students as little as three seconds to explain had taken the Coral Springs Police Department over one minute to communicate, in some cases, because it was playing a game of catch-up. As a result, 69 seconds passed between the first call to 911 and the time police officers were dispatched to the location, according to a report by the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission.

Although 69 seconds might not sound like much time in an ordinary situation, it can make a huge difference in the number of individuals impacted when a school is dealing with an active shooter situation. This scenario demonstrated that our school systems, as well as most enterprise campuses across the nation, still have a lot of work to do to make sure their sites are more secure.

Problems come up because of the intersection of core universities and the areas surrounding them, which creates an overlap in responding jurisdictions when problems arise. Although campus police might be in the best position to respond, municipal or county agencies might actually receive the 911 calls when they come in.

This means that callers are being shuffled around and effective response gets delayed. On top of that, radios and in-car data systems make it difficult for agencies nearby to effectively coordinate responses.

Having ineffective communication systems can be seriously damaging when it comes to emergency response. But it's difficult for responders and can be a real issue for those in need of response, too. On larger campuses, employees face problems with alerting everyone in the area quickly and appropriately when emergencies happen. Further complications occur when staff and employees try to identify and account for everyone on campus.

The Problem of Location
Only recently have communication technology platforms begun to bridge the existing gap between wireless calls made to 911 and being able to identify the location of the caller.

The inability of modern phone calls to effectively communicate location data to 911 call centers is a major problem. With over 80 percent of calls to 911 call centers coming from cell phones, it is critical to identify the location quickly and effectively to ensure law enforcement officers are able to respond to emergencies well.

What Is Being Done?
Organizations are widely implementing various forms of communication technology to help first responders and those involved in natural disasters and other emergencies share their location and other data, all of which improves communication and response times.

More and more, we're seeing Internet of Things devices play a part in a number of industries and spaces. Families use infant wearable devices to inform pediatricians about a baby's health. Buildings can monitor home security doorbells with streaming video.

Imaging devices are also specifically designed for and used by responders in many cases, like cameras that record police interactions and sensors that help monitor firefighters and signal for help if necessary.

Technology advancements can help entire cities, too. For instance, in 2016, Waze and Esri formed a partnership that allows users to visualize data and collaborate. They can use the data to map out how to properly and efficiently deploy resources to help people in need. Additionally, the service lets others in the area know about potential disasters to avoid.

The ability for people to keep in touch in the event of a disaster is becoming more necessary, and the ways in which they can are expanding. Using check-in features or even community activation in large-scale disasters helps everyone accurately track details, the locations of various events, and the safety of loved ones nearby.

What Else Can We Do?
It's important to prepare for each potential situation by engaging employees and implementing new methods of communication. Dealing with natural disasters is difficult, as most are unpredictable and cannot be controlled. Further, reports indicate a steep increase in the costs businesses incur as a result.

In these events, businesses often sustain damage, employees' homes are hurt, and supply chains are entirely shut down. Even more, globalization makes the impact of natural disasters more substantial. Although it's difficult to protect a physical location from every natural disaster, it is imperative to develop a sound disaster recovery plan to adequately prepare companies for as many potential impacts as possible.

Natural disasters are by no means the only kind we face, though. As lone wolf attacks, which involve the attacker trying to inflict harm or death on innocent people, continue to become more common across the nation, it is critical for companies to train employees to handle these situations, taking measures like regular active shooter response training sessions. Companies that regularly conduct this type of training are the best prepared to minimize their risks and protect everyone involved in the event that these situations occur.

Nearly everyone carries powerful technology with them everywhere they go, in the form of smartphones. Because of this, campuses have to take advantage of what is a nearly ubiquitous way of accessing safety technology that comes with little additional cost.

Even something as simple as a detailed map of a campus on a mobile device can be a game changer for responding agencies, especially those that might be slightly unfamiliar with the layout of the school or campus to which they need to go.

Depending on a company's budget and level of threat, implementing gunshot detection software and video monitoring by way of artificial intelligence can also be a powerful tool for recognizing and responding to potential disasters. For instance, video technology can use facial recognition and recognize license plates and vehicles, which helps safety officials when trying to identify suspects or notify others about potential threats.

It is critically important that companies also meet with local responding agencies at least once annually to effectively maintain the public-private partnership. Discuss ways to keep up-to-date mapping data on file for your campus and current plans for engaging with on-site security, management, and other administration departments to ensure they get to the right location as quickly as possible.

Maximizing Tools to Ensure Safety
Consider using familiar technology to make it easier for your staff to recognize and report potential threats in the workplace. Recognize how your staff prefers to communicate, and try to take advantage of whatever that might be. Approaches as simple as implementing a text-in tip line option or using a secure channel on a collaborative tool like Slack are some simple and easy-to-implement ways enterprise campuses can protect their employees.

When it comes to evaluating the threat level a company faces, safety professionals are in the best position. Unfortunately, businesses with a large number of employees, those that are easily identifiable and well-known, or those whose employees are recognizable and notable are at an elevated risk for danger.

Consider the ways in which your company can use technology to understand further, identify, and mitigate threats with data generated by these platforms. Using new technology tools to accurately identify locations and provide a greater understanding of when and where staff members feel less than safe can be crucial in helping you proactively address any potential issues facing your domain.

Implementing the wealth of communication technologies available is an effective and cost-efficient way to ensure the safety of everyone on your campus. Companies can take advantage of technology that employees already have, like smartphones, which will lower costs while providing significant value to users through the wealth of available safety technology in the world today.


Matt Johnson is the chief operating officer of Noonlight, a connected safety platform and mobile app. Noonlight delivers help from emergency services when needed and peace of mind when it’s not at the click of a button and by connecting smart devices to deliver automatic safety.

Posted on May 16, 2019

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