K-12 security and lighting: Notification and safer egress for assailant events and emergencies

By Shanna Olson 

Have you ever thought to yourself, what can I do to make an impact? After the 2018 Parkland school shooting that is exactly what I asked myself.  How can I, in my profession as a lighting designer, make schools or for that matter universities, workplaces, or other commercial environments, safer? So, I mulled this over and chatted with a variety of colleagues. While I was hearing very real concerns, I wasn’t hearing many new or different design strategies that could be applied to enhance safety.   

So being a fan of getting things done, another colleague and I started pursuing out-of-the-box ideas. Many of these came from trying to put ourselves in the place of the students and staff going through this type of stressful experience. We asked ourselves these questions: 

  • How does staff identify an emergency situation?   
  • How much time does it take to confirm and to communicate this, including what type of emergency it is, to faculty and students? 
  • After becoming aware of the emergency, how does the physiology of fear impact the decisions made by faculty or students of what to do next or by what means?   

After considering those questions, we asked: Can technology and lighting be paired to minimize time in identification and communication, increase clarity of communication, and minimize fear during an emergency?  We believe the answer is YES, we can improve each of these.      

With that in mind, we collaborated with IMEG security colleagues Charles LeBlanc and Ryan Searles to identify means to accomplish these goals, what the potential ramifications may be, and to understand the sequences for each type of emergency. We also reached out to outside colleagues to identify what manufacturing opportunities there are or could be to support these concepts and to identify what the potential project costs may be.  Additionally, we talked to school administrators to understand their view on the concept and its viability.    

Following this research, we created a white paper which illustrates how one cohesive platform can detect and identify various threats and communicate their locations, probable areas of safety, egress information, and other helpful directives. From the internal team partnerships to external collaboration, this experience has exemplified how innovation and design can and should work. We as an industry make an impact on the daily lives of those who live, work, and learn in the buildings we create, and this whitepaper highlights that we can come together to improve these experiences. 

Our next step is to test this approach with a case study and continue honing these strategies and we are currently seeking partners to implement this proposed concept. Please reach out if you have an upcoming building project that could be a good fit for these design concepts. We look forward to hearing from you.  

Interested in learning more? Read the whitepaper, “K-12 security and lighting: Notification and safer egress for assailant events and environmental emergencies.”

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