The War at Home: Military Security Technology Coming to a School Near You


Whether it’s a show like NFPA’s recent World Safety Conference in Orlando, the ISC shows or the American Society of Industrial Security’s annual exposition, attendees, more frequently, are seeing both fire protection and security hardware exhibited on the show floor. It’s also not uncommon to hear a lot of buzz about integration of the two. And certainly, there’s been a growing number of official educational sessions dedicated to discussing the advantages of integrated fire protection and security design.

But one player in this evolving marketplace is taking that philosophy to an entirely different level: military-grade. And at an unusual target: K-12 schools.

GE Security, formerly Edwards Systems Technology, is planning on introducing “itemizer”-style explosion-detection devices, presently used by the U.S. military in Iraq, as well as in some airports, into the nation’s schools.

“We’ve been doing a lot of market research in the K-12 education arena and in talking to a lot of principals and superintendents, the two big issues on their minds are drugs and explosives,” said GE’s Mike Browning.

Besides the obvious benefits the sensor devices offer for explosive detection, they can also be adapted to fight the war on drugs. Right now, Browning said, many schools use dogs to check lockers and other areas. But he said kids are smart, and in the case of drug-sniffing dogs, they can often figure out when a search is going to happen and simply remove any contraband. But drug searches using scanning technology can be performed on an almost daily basis—something you can’t do with dogs.

“The idea is not to arrest kids, but to create such a deterrent that kids will simply choose not to bring drugs to school,” Browning said.

Another area where the company sees room for security improvement is visitor management. “Take, for example, construction projects,” said Browning. “When a crew checks in it’s usually only the chief who logs in. But even if the school had some kind of a database of, say, known pedophiles, you still don’t know about the rest of the workers.”

Not to jump to the worst-case scenario, but Browning said the reality is that schools do tend to attract such predators, and there must be a better way to protect students. Requiring access cards for all visitors will allow anyone having any association with kids to be cleared appropriately.

Offering these out-of-the-box solutions, the company is hoping to make a major impact in the market. “We’re going to make a major push into the education market, because not only can we bring these new technologies, we can deliver traditional fire protection, access control and CCTV,” said Browning.

In fact, he said the merger with GE is what has really allowed for more crossover fire/security opportunities and the possibility of taking a big leap like this. “We’re really committed to making this happen,” he said.

Product of the Year
Consulting-Specifying Engineer's Product of the Year (POY) contest is the premier award for new products in the HVAC, fire, electrical, and...
40 Under Forty: Get Recognized
Consulting-Specifying Engineer magazine is dedicated to encouraging and recognizing the most talented young individuals...
MEP Giants Program
The MEP Giants program lists the top mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and fire protection engineering firms in the United States.
November 2018
Emergency power requirements, salary survey results, lighting controls, fire pumps, healthcare facilities, and more
October 2018
Approaches to building engineering, 2018 Commissioning Giants, integrated project delivery, improving construction efficiency, an IPD primer, collaborative projects, NFPA 13 sprinkler systems.
September 2018
Power boiler control, Product of the Year, power generation,and integration and interoperability
Data Centers: Impacts of Climate and Cooling Technology
This course focuses on climate analysis, appropriateness of cooling system selection, and combining cooling systems.
Safety First: Arc Flash 101
This course will help identify and reveal electrical hazards and identify the solutions to implementing and maintaining a safe work environment.
Critical Power: Hospital Electrical Systems
This course explains how maintaining power and communication systems through emergency power-generation systems is critical.
Data Center Design
Data centers, data closets, edge and cloud computing, co-location facilities, and similar topics are among the fastest-changing in the industry.
click me