They’re investing in video surveillance, entry control systems, lockdown training and armed police on site. And some are considering newer gadgets that claim to fill security gaps, including door barricades and bulletproof backpacks.
School security is a rapidly expanding business, according to research by Jim Dearing, senior security analyst at IHS Markit. The education sector of the security market grew to $2.7 billion last year, up from $2.5 billion in 2015. The proportion of schools using video surveillance grew to 70% in 2013, up from 20% in 1999.
The market for security equipment is flattening now that the vast majority of schools are stocked up, Dearing said.
This year’s National Active School Shooter Conference has had to increase its exhibition hall size by three times, said Sean Burke, president of the School Safety Advocacy Council. The number of exhibitors at the conference, taking place in Orlando in July, has gone up 25% compared to last year.
“Security companies are adapting products for the school market,” he said. “Some aren’t proper for a school environment.”
Dearing agrees that some schools that already have “real security” are exploring another wing of the market, representing more niche, non-traditional devices.
Many schools are using these gadgets as quick fixes, to show the community they’re doing something, said Rick Kaufman, an emergency management consultant who led the crisis response team at Columbine High School. He now advises school districts on their security plans.
“Schools are scrambling,” he said. “They’re not looking at what might be the best solution.”
Some of these gadgets pose a number of safety problems of their own, he said. For example, door jams are a violation of many state egress codes, because wheelchair-bound students can’t exit.