Safer Schools: Intelligent Lighting

Connecting lighting systems in educational facilities can help to light the way to safety.

By Julie Brown and Ken Biggerstaff
From the April 2019 Issue

Next to their homes, school is where children spend most of their day; and today, there is an increased concern around the safety and security of educational facilities. Parents want to ensure their children remain protected throughout their learning careers and rely on school districts to provide a safe, comfortable, and productive learning environment. Therefore, districts are required to prepare for various types of emergencies including fires, unauthorized visitors, and active shooter scenarios. Implementing and connecting an integrated security, fire, and life safety strategy with intelligent lighting infrastructure can provide district leaders with the tools to create the desired safe environment.

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Smart safety strategies utilize lighting. Safeguarding schools with advanced solutions can easily seem daunting as many districts have disparate buildings that require various strategies. One of the most effective ways to enhance overall safety is through the integration of multiple systems. The foundation for this security strategy can be an intelligent networked lighting system.

For many, efficiency is the catalyst for improving lighting infrastructure and leads districts to transition their traditional lighting to LED to help uncover greater savings. These updates allow school districts to redirect the savings towards addressing deferred maintenance or allocating to other budgets, such as security to help fund enhancements or new implementations. It’s important though for district leaders to understand that a connected lighting infrastructure can provide a myriad of opportunity for improvement in other areas, too.

Connecting networked lighting to systems and technologies, such as cameras and sensors, offer additional benefits for school security and safety. With capabilities such as occupancy tracking, on/off dimming, and detecting security hazards, integrated safety and lighting solutions can be tailored to meet the needs of a school based on specific emergencies. For example, LED provides better light distribution, improving visual acuity to boost safety and security resulting in clear images from video surveillance cameras. Greater visibility may also mean that fewer cameras are needed, which can help lower project and operational costs because there are less systems to manage and maintain.

Sensors can be mounted on lighting fixtures to monitor building conditions and can detect fire, smoke, CO2, gunshot sounds, and other hazards. If the sensors detect a problem or sense abnormal behavior, they can be programmed to trigger an alarm and alert school authorities when integrated with emergency communication systems, helping to improve emergency response times. Additionally, intelligent lighting systems that utilize sensors to track assets also benefit from reduced operational and maintenance costs by alerting teams of potential maintenance needs, ensuring operational continuity and reducing system downtime.

Emergency navigation made easier. Networked lights in and around the premises of a school can be transformed into smart, vertical assets that use video cameras, sensors and additional safety systems to monitor the flow of traffic or identify hazards that impede on the route of occupants and emergency responders. Providing an unobstructed path can be the critical difference between a quick, safe exit and a catastrophic result.

When coupled with occupancy sensors, cameras and mass notification systems, the lighting network can determine and illuminate a safe route to guide students and faculty out of a threatened area. In schools and other facilities, this is a valuable asset as “the safest route” depends on your location within the facility. If a fire erupts in a cafeteria, for instance, the connected infrastructure can simultaneously notify emergency responders of the quickest route around the building to the fire, while alerting and guiding occupants away from the fire by illuminating hallways and turning off lights in threatened areas. Implementing intelligent lighting with multiple systems on a unified platform helps enable a smarter, more efficient approach to emergency preparedness.

School districts can implement advanced security, fire, and life safety solutions to improve safety strategies. An interoperable intelligent lighting network can help unify these systems on a single platform to provide an enhanced layer of protection that will bolster the effectiveness of emergency response in and around a school, helping to create a safer, more comfortable, and productive learning environment.

safer schools
Ken Biggerstaff is general manager for Johnson Controls Intelligent Lighting Infrastructure.
safer schools
Julie Brown is institutional market leader for Johnson Controls, Building Solutions North America.

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