How to Protect Multiple Campuses with a Panic Alarm System for Schools

Posted at April 1, 2022
How to Protect Multiple Campuses with a Panic Alarm System for Schools

Director of Security Mike Favorit describes how Mutualink technology protects Valencia College in Orlando, Florida

By: Mutualink Staff

Mutualink maintains a constant dialogue with all its customers to understand their needs. This is an important way to ensure we develop the technology to help build safer, smarter and more collaborative communities. Recently we sat down with Mike Favorit, Director of Security at Valencia College in Orlando, Florida.

Director Favorit has spent a lifetime in public service. He first served in the Navy, and then joined the Orlando Police Department. He spent 26 working for the Orlando PD, serving in multiple capacities and retiring with the rank of Captain.

For the past eight years Favorit has been in charge of security at Valencia College. He oversees a force of 126 officers across 12 separate campuses, a geography that crosses six different law enforcement jurisdictions. Favorit has used Mutualink technology for years and has seen the solutions provided evolve and expand over time. He shared his views on a number of important school safety alert topics.

Enhanced Lockdown Capabilities

Effective lockdown protocols and training are credited with saving lives during a December 2021 shooting at Oxford High School, outside Detroit, Michigan. Four students were tragically killed and eight others injured, but the number could have been much higher without locked, barricaded doors and student training.

Improving lockdown capabilities was a priority when Director Favorit joined Valencia College. He started visiting multiple campuses and had his team take him through the steps. Then he began drills aimed at reducing the time needed to lockdown the campuses.

Eventually the average lockdown time was reduced to two minutes, but Director Favorit was not satisfied. He knew the quicker you can resolve a situation, the fewer injuries will occur. So he brought his team together with Mutualink technicians to discuss the potential for a multi-campus panic alarm system for schools. The goal is for any campus to be locked down almost instantly in the event of an alarm.

“Today at each campus, I have the ability to not only lock down that campus, I can also lock down any other campus. It's a critical piece of a school safety alert system and now it’s four feet from me. I can literally lock down any campus or multiple campuses within seconds. The problem we are attempting to address is we are not always in our office! Ultimately what we would like to achieve is the same ability using an application in conjunction with Mutualink to lock the building down and notify all response agencies simultaneously.”

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The Importance of Unified Communications

Network-enabled applications that bring together multiple communications channels can help mitigate the effects of violence in schools by enabling staff to monitor school environments, deter criminal activities, and coordinate information sharing with law enforcement during and after a school emergency.

Director Favorit shared that awareness around the need for unified communications has increased dramatically over the past 20 years. Previously police often thought they had the communications technology to do anything that was required. Incident Command System (ICS) programs with the federal government showed the value of unified command.

What really got the point across was when Favorit was with the Orlando PD and there were major critical incidents that taxed available staff to the maximum. Other municipalities had to donate resources to keep the department going during the emergencies. This brought home the need for unified communications.

“Unified communications is essential. And I think that's one of the strengths of the Mutualink system. It instantaneously connects. You invite somebody in, they're there, if they're with it and monitoring the system, they're there. it all comes down to communications, can different radio systems connect? If it can’t, what good is it? It helps me get my people out, but it doesn't help me with other situations like school shootings.”

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An Effective Emergency Operations Plan (EOP)

Every district or school needs to develop comprehensive school EOPs that describe the actions that students, teachers, and school staff should take before, during, and after emergency events. Effective lockdown protocols and unified communications are two pieces of an effective EOP. Unfortunately, often these plans are created with a “checkbox” mentality and then accumulate dust on top of a file cabinet.

In addition, too often EOPs are not shared with law enforcement. This disconnect obviously hampers police response and remediation efforts in the event of an emergency. When it comes down to competing priorities – funding, filling positions, parental controversies, the supply of Chromebooks for the year – the security of the school facility is actually far down the list. No one in the administration is thinking about the possibility of a school shooting the week before school starts.

When Director Favorit came on at Valencia, the college had an emergency plan, but it had never been tested. Within a year Favorit had organized a full-scale exercise that involved fire departments, police, other first responders and federal authorities. For the first time these responders had access to real-time information, including drone footage sent directly to a SWAT team.

“I don’t think the police departments had ever worked on a panic alert system for schools in this way. I was able to integrate the Mutualink platform into law enforcement. And they could see everything in the command post, which was sitting right outside of my security eye office. We had the SWAT team out there and we were able to hook up drone footage through Mutualink and attach it and send it off to the SWAT and send it off to the command post. So now every other year we do a training scenario and then we do a full-scale exercise.”

The Most Experienced Partner for Disaster Communication Technology

With over 3,000 deployments connecting over 10,000 public safety entities, Mutualink gives leaders like Director Favorit what they need to protect their communities. Our technology has been proven many times over to protect citizens and connect communities. FirstNet and Verizon Frontline, the two largest public safety networks in the country, both depend on Mutualink to ensure the interoperability of their solutions.

Mutualink LNK360™ is trusted by hundreds of police forces and schools nationwide because every child deserves to be safe and protected. Learn about how to put our proven technology and years of experience to work protecting the next generation. For more information, request a free demonstration.

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