Any parent of a student or public safety officer will tell you, security is paramount when it comes to prioritization of public sector resources.

Not that there aren’t other important priorities for local governments.  But at a time when school shootings and attacks on law enforcement officers far too often dominate the headlines, the question of keeping our children and first responders safe has become a priority.

Sprint has a long legacy of supporting first responders, keeping police, fire, and emergency personnel safe.  With a dedicated division that focuses specifically on first responders along with other state and local government agencies including K-12 schools, Sprint has been delivering communication services securely and reliably over 30 years.

Jim Spillane, Vice President Government Solutions at Sprint, is helping guide Sprint develop products and services that enhance the ability of public servants to safely do their jobs and stay connected when communication is needed the most.

“The communications landscape among first responders is transforming rapidly,” Spillane says. “There is unprecedented interest in officer safety and in making sure that law enforcement, fire, and EMT communications are unimpeded. These people do life and death work, and technology must enhance and not hinder their service efforts.”

Guaranteeing a connection

Sprint Secure Mobile VPN is another solution that helps first responders address network connection challenges.  As Chris Felix, Vice President and General Manager of Government Solutions for Sprint Business says, “Sprint Secure Mobile VPN ensures that data from a first responder’s emergency vehicle will properly transmit even if the vehicle is on the move and possibly traveling through areas where wireless coverage is spotty or nonexistent.” Once a data session using Sprint Secure Mobile VPN is established, the session will automatically pause when coverage drops and resume at the same point in the transmission once a connection is re-established.  This keeps emergency data communications in constant contact between all communicating parties.

Keeping officers safe

Time is of the essence when responding to incidents involving law enforcement professionals.  Spillane points to one innovative application that combines sensor technology with communication technology to keep law enforcement officers safe.

Automatic Injury Detection is a solution that combines next gen communication capabilities with a special fabric that once inserted into an officer’s body armor, can detect the telltale signs of a shooting or stabbing. After a life threating incident, Automatic Injury Detection will send an alert to EMTs, providing the officer’s location, blood type, and other vital information so first responders can locate the injured officer even if the officer is unable to respond.

One Sprint customer protecting their officers with Automated Injury Detection is the McAllen, Texas school district police force. They tie sensor data from the Automated Injury Detection solution to the officer’s smartphones and in-vehicle computers to make sure they are protected in case of injury. As Spillane points out “the department also leverages Sprint’s Mobile Hotspot capabilities to enhance in-vehicle computer communications and they have improved officer collaboration through group texting features, found in our Enterprise Messaging Service.”

Sprint Business also offers additional partner solutions focused on security and safety including officer body cameras and in-vehicle cameras. It’s all part, as Spillane says, of Sprint’s focus on “helping first responders build and take advantage of a truly robust and cost-competitive network.”

For those first responders whose agency departments are tied to a single service provider, Sprint offers backup and other network options that assure resilience and prevent communication jams that could put lives at risk.

Keeping schools and students safe

The primary purpose of every educational system is to educate and prepare students on their journey to adulthood.  Delivering on that objective requires schools and school administrators to provide a safe and secure environment in which to educate.  Recent school tragedies have shown us that more can be done in the area of student protection.

Sprint offers schools an innovative and defensive solution that helps secure classroom doors in the event of a threat.  As Spillane explains, “Using technology similar to that used in the Automatic Injury Detection solution, we are able to send an immediate notification to the principal or school resource officer so they know the classroom door has been locked and secured.  As soon as the pin drops to secure the door, a notification is sent to individuals predetermined in the system.”

The door locking system prevents the door from being opened and accessed by unauthorized individuals, because only the principal or law enforcement officer will have access to the required tool that can open it.

We provide the door locking system at no charge to schools that sign up for low-cost rate plans.

Tech’s invaluable role in education

Keeping students safe is on top of everybody’s list, but the schools’ primary mission remains educating children and making sure that every one of them has the opportunity and the tools to help them rise to their potential. Today, that means taking full advantage of technology.

Sprint’s multi-year is designed to help schools – particularly in less affluent areas – obtain and use advanced networking and computing tools to overcome what is known as the “homework gap.”

“There are some five million families – 12 million kids – in this country who don’t have internet access at home,” Felix notes. “But the vast majority of teachers are assigning homework that requires internet access. Kids end up going to McDonald’s for their Wi-Fi or sitting on the school steps in the morning to get onto the school’s Wi-Fi so they can get their homework done.”

That’s the homework gap, and that’s what the One Million Project is working to help fill.

Since 2016, Sprint has been awarding schools in need with hotspots, tablets, and smartphones, and offering them free data services. As Spillane explains. “It has been a very successful program so far, and we anticipate donating $2 billion over the life of this project.”

School funding is always going to be an issue for educators and administrators.  Finding the most cost effective solution that delivers the most value drives many, if not all school purchasing decisions.

Sprint is fully aware of the funding challenges districts face, Felix points out. “To further assist specific schools in need, we also offer other economical solutions, such as low-fee mobile broadband and data services.”

Sprint is also launching an LTE-connected Chromebook computer for schools, the first Chromebook with embedded LTE capabilities.  It’s a laptop with an LTE radio built in, designed to take advantage of low-cost data plans.

Safety should never be an after thought

It’s foolish to assume that even with the best technology, we can stop all tragedies from happening.  We live in an open society and bad things unfortunately occur.  What we can hope for is by increasing our awareness of the kinds of threats that exist, we can take precautions and preparations to hopefully lessen their impact, and in the best cases, prevent some of them from happening.

The safety of our students, educators, law enforcement officers, and the general public should be everyone’s concern.  Sprint is working hard, both directly and through our partners, to develop solutions focused on increasing the safety and protection for those we care about, and for those who care for us.