The Las Cruces, N.M., school system has automated its emergency-lockdown process through a newly installed key-card access system and an integrated solution comprising multiple components.  

Previously, a custodian manually would lock each door with a key during a lockdown. With the new system, an administrator now can push a button in the office or enter a code on any district VoIP phone to lock all doors throughout a building. As a result, the process has gone from taking several minutesone high school has as many as 80 doorsto a few seconds.

When the button is pressed or code entered, an automated message is broadcast over the intercom for everyone to follow lockdown procedures, and a text message is sent to the system’s leadership team.

“Now, you can do the job of managing it rather than preparing for it,” Superintendent Stan Rounds said during an interview with IWCE’s Urgent Communications. “That’s really where you want to be.”

The lockdown button, however, does not notify 911 dispatchers automatically.

“We feel that someone needs to actually be on the phone to inform the dispatch center what the problem is and to stay on the line while appropriate emergency responders are dispatched,” said Jeff Harris, the district’s director of technology support services.

Further, the dispatch center often is the originator of a lockdown request, Harris said. This is done as a precaution when police are active near a school. Also, the lockdown button is part of the school system’s drill process, and school administrators do not want to bother dispatchers with test calls, he said.

Funding for the new system was included in a $65 million bond issue that was approved in February, just one month after a shooting three hours away left two students injured. About $4.6 million of that money has been earmarked for security-related improvements.

“That (shooting) again just reinforced the issue that even dreadful things can happen, and to be able to take control and spend time managing, rather than preparing for how you’re going to manage it, becomes critical,” Rounds said.

Harris said the district built a complete solution by using a variety of vendors—Schlage/Vanderbilt for the door-hardware and access-control software, Cisco Unified Communication System for its telephone system, Valcom for intercom communications and Informacast as the interface to integrate all of these functions.

Aside from a security-card access system and intercom upgrades, the bond issue also will  pay for a $500,000 wireless network upgrade and an additional 350 surveillance cameras. The installation of these cameras will double the number of cameras throughout the district and will mean that cameras will be in all the schools by the end of the summer. The district selected Axis/Cisco for its cameras and Video Insights for video-recording and analytics solutions.