Ensure Your Graduation Season is Memorable & Safe:

graduates tossing caps in air

Do away with “old school” technology

While high school and college graduates, along with their proud families, gather across the U.S. to celebrate their academic achievements, real-time security should be at top of mind for school administrators and security staff.

Graduation ceremonies take place in a multitude of venues, from gymnasiums and performing arts centers, to outdoor areas or other large venues intended to accommodate the thousands of faculty, students and family members in attendance. Some larger college graduations even take place in stadiums that seat more than 90,000 people. While a crowd of 90,000 people makes for a joyous celebration, it also presents a number of security risks and challenges that academic institutions must address.

The reality is that school-related attacks are on the rise and your top priority should be protecting those in attendance. In order to feel confident that graduation is an enjoyable and safe experience for all, you and your security team need to overcome one of the biggest roadblocks ― Metal Detectors are Old-School!

Yes, we just said it, metal detectors simply are not designed to detect and prevent today’s modern threats. Since the late 1900s, the technology has changed very little, and anyone who has had to wait in a queue to go through one for an event knows that they’re incredibly slow-paced and often trigger false alarms. Yet, too many schools and venues still rely on old metal detector technology to screen large crowds.

Metal Detector Technology Limitations and Disadvantages

The technology in metal detectors is designed to detect metal and simply can’t disambiguate between a cell phone, toy or gun. It forces individuals one-by-one to divest of articles of clothing, belts, shoes, phones, keys, bags and more. Further, when guards repeatedly find that the detectors’ alarms are due to those everyday items and not weapons, they become desensitized and inadvertently less effective in the screening process.

Forcing individuals one-by-one to empty their pockets, and have your guards rummage through their personal belongings cause frustration for all parties involved. This slow, single-file security procedure creates a bottleneck of anxious people waiting to enter your venue, rather than creating a positive, seamless visitor experience.

The hassle, frustration and long lines that metal detectors cause, combined with their old-school technology that only detect metallic items, can create scenarios where the screening process itself is more of a risk than the threats the detectors are trying to mitigate. For instance, generating bottlenecks also creates a “soft target”, a person or group that is relatively unprotected or vulnerable, especially to a mass shooting or terrorist attack, in and of itself.

Taking a New Approach to Real-Time Visitor Screening

As the threats against academic institutions increase, you should look to adopt new advanced weapons-screening solutions that combine powerful sensors and artificial intelligence to better screen crowds of people simultaneously, while pinpointing threats such as guns, knives and other objects. These solutions efficiently identify threats, and help eliminate the large crowds gathered in front of the screening area.

Graduation day is one of the happiest days in the lives of students and their families. Through a combination of smart security and advanced technology, we can keep it that way.

The Lesson We Still Need to Learn from Sandy Hook

Heart-shaped stone

By Mike Ellenbogen, CEO of Evolv Technology –

Six years after the tragedy, we’re still treating active shooter attacks as isolated incidents

It’s been six years since the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary. A week after that awful day, Evolv advisor Juliette Kayyam wrote an incisive, rage-fueled column for the Boston Globe, entitled “Details are a Distraction in Newtown Killing”. Her plea was for society to stop fixating on the personal stories of each active shooter, as though perfect understanding could somehow prevent future attacks, and focus instead on pragmatic, real-world measures to dissuade all would-be attackers.

For Juliette, gun control is an essential part of the solution. But whatever your political beliefs, there’s no arguing her goal: to make an unsafe world as safe as it can be, without impinging on our free way of life. That’s been Evolv’s mission from the start.

We are fortunate to have Juliette on board to advise us and help spread our message. She was homeland security advisor for the state of Massachusetts, before becoming President Obama’s Assistant Secretary for Intergovernmental Affairs at the Department of Homeland Security. These days, she is a frequent guest analyst on CNN.

Here is a link to Juliette’s column. It’s worth reading again.

Read more from Juliette in A Citizen’s Guide to Stopping the Next Active Shooter.

Bulletproof backpacks, #2 pencils and iPads – Preparing for Back-to-School Season in the Era of Active Shooters

School Bus Stop

By Mike Ellenbogen, CEO at Evolv Technology

The impending Labor Day celebration not only signifies the end of summer but also the start of the back-to-school season. Whether school buses are already making their daily routes through your neighborhood or you’re still chasing your kids to finish those final pages in their assigned summer reading, there is a dark cloud lingering above the back-to-school season: active shooter prevention and protection.

In past years, those of us who are parents have become accustomed to the run-of-the-mill back-to-school shopping list. However, as we enter the 2018-2019 school year, we are facing purchase decisions we never thought we would have to make. The list we’re armed with doesn’t feel quite as light in our hands.

Bulletproof backpacks, clear backpacks and TuffyPacks. These are now the items that fill back-to-school shopping carts.

The active shooter incidents that targeted schools last year created a ripple effect that was felt around the country. With reports of Parkland still ringing in our ears, school boards, superintendents and principals spent the summer brainstorming and hypothesizing about potential solutions. While parents have been tracking down bulletproof school supplies, teachers have been immersed in active shooter training programs while school districts are spending millions installing bulletproof windows.

Undeniably, this is an issue that needs to be solved particularly as soft targets and large places where individuals gather continue to be targets for attackers. Today, attackers are looking to inflict as much pain and damage as possible with one attack. What’s more, in the U.S. in particular, the access to guns has made it easy for anyone with a grievance to act on it in a way that can affect hundreds of lives.

As school districts, local officials, parents and students rally together to put forth a solution, it’s difficult to get a grasp on where to start or what even qualifies as a good solution. Some schools are already equipped with metal detectors – should others follow suit? Are metal detectors practical for a school environment? What about AI, facial recognition and other innovative technologies? When is it an invasion of privacy?

As the need for solutions to combat active shooters in schools continues to grow, the security industry is responding two-fold on both the consulting side and the technology side. Organizations of all sizes have been motivated to deliver technology that will help make school a safer place. As a result, the number of solutions and innovations available to us seem endless.

Technology can help us do incredible things. It can analyze thousands of data points in seconds. It can help you see things from miles away. It can identify an object as something specific based on pre-programmed characteristics. Leveraging technology – whether it be cameras or sensors – and applying it to physical security, particularly as it relates to schools, can significantly improve the safety of the environment without creating a prison-like atmosphere.

One technology that cannot be ignored when discussing this topic is face recognition. Today many schools require students to carry photo ID badges which allow them to get onto campus and also enter various buildings on school property. The face recognition most schools rely on today is based on staff using their eyes to detect someone or something that’s “just not right”.  This is inconsistent, inherently fallible, and biased.  Automated face recognition technology doesn’t blink – it’s always on, it’s consistent and objective, rather than relying on human memory and attention. Face recognition can be instrumental in helping to enhance a school’s security posture by automatically identifying individuals who shouldn’t be on the premises, or others that pose a potential threat based on input from local law enforcement, teachers or school administration.

Technology however, is just one piece of the puzzle. It’s more than just leveraging the technology available today to solve this problem – it’s about fostering a conversation. While it is promising to see school districts around the country spring into action ahead of the coming school year, there is a need for much closer, tighter coordination between all involved parties.

Only when we take an integrated, holistic approach – that marries technology and the broader discussion – will we find ourselves with a proactive plan to combat this problem. At Evolv, we look forward to continuing to cultivate those partnerships and foster those much-needed conversations as we work to identify a solution to this ever-pressing problem.