In the wake of tragic school shootings such as the 2013 Sandy Hook Elementary shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, companies are responding with new technologies designed to improve school safety and security.
One such company that has responded to the public outcry for improved school safety is Mutualink Inc., an interoperable communications provider, with its secure emergency communications and video sharing platform for schools.
The K12 technology recently took home the Connecticut Quality Improvement Award (CQIA) Platinum Innovation Prize, Connecticut’s premiere statewide award for innovation. The mission of CQIA is “to recognize the highest ethical standards used in combination with advanced business processes and innovative approaches to improve the economic vitality of Connecticut and all its people.”
Mutualink’s system has dramatically improved school safety and security by directly linking school radios, telephone, intercom and video systems with police, fire, EMS, hospitals and other entities in emergency situations.
In multiple active shooter response exercises, including one in Hartford, Conn., Mutualink K12 reduced time to incident resolution by 40 percent. Seconds matter in an emergency, and saving five to ten minutes during an ongoing threat saves lives. The system is also useful for emergencies ranging from fires, medical and disaster scenarios, to day-to-day type activities such as school-to-school events and city-wide school information sharing.
Mutualink K12 is unique among school security solutions because it effectively engages schools and the community in public safety, leading to reduced resolution time. The system includes a number of features, including real-time voice technology which allows connectivity regardless of radio type, intercom, and video, data and text communications. This enables police to “hear and see into the school” before entering, eliminating time-wasting telephone relays and message errors.
The Mutualink K12 solution also features a smart panic button that instantly initiates emergency response, automatically engaging radio and video communications.
Security, privacy and sovereignty are all designed into the Mutualink system and the system has very low recurring costs, which is an important consideration for taxpayer-funded school procurements.
"We’re extremely proud of our school safety initiative and products, and active shooter drills like the one conducted in Hartford demonstrate that our technology can truly make schools safer and save lives,” said Mutualink CEO Mark Hatten.
The success of Mutualink’s school safety system has not been limited to Connecticut. In November 2014, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the launch of Mutualink K12 at 20 New York public schools in Oneida and Rockland counties.
"In an emergency, mere seconds can make all the difference in averting tragedy. This new technology is yet another step we are taking to better protect students and ensure that first responders and law enforcement have access to quick and accurate information," Cuomo stated.
The New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services’ (DHSES) Office of Interoperable and Emergency Communications implemented the program in conjunction with each county’s sheriff’s office or emergency management office.
“Accurate information and situational awareness are critical to any emergency situation,” said recently retired DHSES Commissioner Jerome M. Hauer. “This platform will give law enforcement and emergency managers real time access to voice, video and data to make smart, timely decisions on how to respond rapidly to any emergency situation.”
New York’s implementation of the program followed on the heels of the successful roll-out of the Mutualink system in Dartmouth, Massachusetts earlier that year.
The implementation of Mutualink’s system at an increasing number of schools is part of a growing effort to increase strategic collaboration among schools, the community, first responders and the private sector in responding to school violence.
In a March 2015 white paper, Ensuring Preparedness during School Safety Crises, Mutualink emphasized the importance of building shared knowledge as a critical component to ensuring school safety and security.
From Columbine to Sandy Hook, incidents of school violence often bring on a deluge of reports and panels attempting to uncover the underlying factors leading to school safety vulnerabilities. One factor common to almost every incident is the need for improved collaboration.
“Many times when we are faced with complex problems or crises, there is a call for enhanced cooperation and communication,” the report stated. “Nobody can argue that when individuals, groups, and agencies work together, great things can happen.”
The report added that, “By partnering with experts such as Mutualink, school administrators can focus on educating, knowing that advanced technology is helping to achieve unprecedented communication and collaboration to protect their students.”