The Umpqua Tragedy: Lessons Learned in School Safety

By Haystax, October 7, 2015 | SHARE

Like much of the country, at Haystax we’re still reeling over last week’s shooting at Umpqua Community College. We too felt that sense of helplessness as we watched events unfold on that tragic Thursday. Our thoughts are with the deceased, the injured, their families, and all those in the Roseburg, Oregon community. School safety is part of our DNA and we can’t help but look at this event within the context of the bigger picture. By now, most of us have heard the sad facts of school shootings. Forty weeks into the calendar year, we have already experienced 45 school shootings in the U.S. – 17 of them on college campuses. This follows last year when we endured 74 school shootings. The root causes of these incidents have been debated heavily over the past days, months and years. We’re not going to come to a consensus anytime soon. But everyone can agree that school safety can and must be a higher priority as school threats continue to rise. No school or campus is immune to threats, whether they are human-based threats or natural hazards. In the wake of the Umpqua shooting, there may be a temptation for school safety stakeholders to focus their preparedness efforts and dedicating their budgets to countering this exact kind of high-profile threat, rather than adopting a broader all-hazards approach that includes lower-impact but more likely threats. This is a mistake schools must avoid. As we noted in a previous blog, schools must take an all-hazards approach rather than focusing too much on specific kinds of incidents. We have designed our cloud-based software tools so they can be used to prepare for and manage any man-made accidental or intentional threat, as well as a wide array of natural hazards — any of which could strike a school with little or no notice. Additionally, better situational awareness and information sharing are vital to enhance the ability of all agencies in the school safety community to be better prepared, detect emerging threats faster and respond more quickly. Colleges and university campuses typically are spread over large areas, while larger higher-education systems manage separate campuses across the U.S. and even abroad. In these large-enterprise situations, the need for a common operating picture and up-to-the minute situational awareness is critical for security decision-makers. School safety stakeholders should look to secure, cloud-based environments as an ideal platform for these types of far-flung operations. Solutions like our Haystax School Safety Center can enable authorized users to see threats as they emerge, enabling them to get ahead of a crisis. This type of system can store all campus facility and contact information in one place, giving first responders immediate access to critical facts at a particular locale that can make all the difference when each minute counts – as well as assessment tools to better understand their biggest threats and vulnerabilities. Most importantly, cloud-based systems can be available at any time and any place, on any device. Crises don’t always happen during working hours; the tools professionals use to protect individuals, facilities and systems shouldn’t tether them to their desks for the workday and then be unavailable after hours. We hope we never see another incident like the shooting at Umpqua Community College. K-12 and higher-ed institutions face many challenging decisions about school safety. We are here to support them in making our campuses and schools safer places.