May 9, 2019

How Schools and Universities Can Use Social Media to Keep Operations Running Smoothly

Charlotte Lynch by Charlotte Lynch

“Our Twitter presence was particularly helpful during wildfires in the fall. We were able to monitor the rapidly changing situation and keep followers notified of implications for our schools and buses.” – Boulder Valley School District

Incidences such as this are not uncommon. Given that social media use is growing, with 3.48 billion people currently using some form of social media in their everyday lives, it’s no surprise that it’s one of the first places people turn to when faced with something out of the ordinary. This proclivity for sharing can be incredibly useful for education security teams who face increasing pressure on campus and need to find out what is happening on-the-ground and where so that they can keep their teams, students and staff safe. We take a look at some of the useful ways social media can be used by security teams within the education sector.

Power and Internet Outages

When technology fails, education fails and it can become increasingly costly, both in terms of money and learning, the longer the outage. In situations like this, it’s crucial that IT teams, security teams and more can know exactly what’s happening where, when and how. A quick and easy way to determine this would be via social media. Students, having grown up with social media, are quick to report any events of significance.


Police Activity in the Area

It’s possible that whilst a school may not be the target of an attack directly, they are indirectly involved due to an incident happening in the area. For example, if there is an active shooter reported two blocks away from the school, security will want to know so they can inform parents who may be coming to pick up their children, students who are travelling to and from campus or even to alert that the school will be on lockdown until the situation has been resolved. Social media can often give instant contextual awareness in these situations through images, videos and live text updates.

Active Shooters and Spotting False Reports

SAM client Fulton County Schools noted that during the Parkland and Santa Fe school shootings, it was crucial for them to know what was going on in a different state so that they could inform students, teachers, parents and the wider community what was happening in real-time. They did this by assessing alerts coming into the SAM platform, which continually updates the event as more information comes in. Paul Hildreth from FCS Emergency Operations Centre says “Knowing this [the events in real-time] helped us to dispel rumors and provide actual live updates to leadership as the events were unfolding. While this was not in our community, we also must be aware of events and how they may impact our district.”


School Placements

University students can be engaged with exchange programmes, year-long assignments or even short trips abroad for a project, so it’s crucial that the school security team understands the security landscape of the countries being travelled to and instantly know when things go wrong abroad. Knowing where to start when monitoring for events in foreign countries and languages can be a huge challenge for smaller and resource strapped security teams. Social media is often the only really scalable way to get a constant feed of what is happening in countries where you have no resources.

Extreme weather

Weather can have a huge impact on operations and student learning experience. Sometimes there may be snow forecast, but it’s unpredictable how much. Social media is excellent at giving contextual awareness. If there is heavy snow where a shower was forecast, you can know as soon as it is happening thanks to posts on social media. This is especially useful if you work in an environment where you are so focused on what is happening on the screens around you that stopping to keep an eye on the weather is nigh-on-impossible. You can then put in place a response quickly and efficiently to ensure the safety of students when outside of the building in the potentially dangerous conditions.

Learn more about how SAM  powers the security control room of Fulton County Schools, assisting it’s security operations team tasked with keeping on top of day-to-day events that may directly or indirectly affect the schools.

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