| NEW YORK
NEW YORK Feb 27 Many cash-strapped school
districts in the United States expect to spend more this year,
but not on teachers and supplies. They plan to pay for guards,
cameras and other security equipment.
School safety purchases had stalled in recent years, but
suppliers have seen renewed demand in response to the December
shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut
in which six adults and 20 children were killed.
It often takes school boards months to approve new projects,
but companies are already seeing a significant uptick in
inquiries and orders as frightened parents and administrators
demand more protection.
"The day before Sandy Hook you couldn't pay school boards,
superintendants and legislators to talk about beefing up school
security and now the inquiries run the gamut," said school
security consultant Ken Trump, president of the consulting firm
National School Safety and Security Services.
Home security firm ADT doesn't provide security solutions
for schools, but Tyco and Cisco Systems, Inc. have divisions
that cater specifically to educational systems.
Cisco declined to comment "given the sensitivity of the
subject." But the company - buoyed by a small gain in sales
-beat Wall Street expectations with its fiscal second quarter
earnings report released in February.
Cisco projected third quarter sales would increase 4 to 6
percent on the year.
Tyco International, which sells surveillance equipment and
high-tech locking systems, had 64 percent more inquiries on its
Tyco Integrated Securities website in the week immediately
following the Newtown shooting.
Tyco, which reported growth in sales of its security
products in first quarter earnings, said an increase in web
traffic and phone inquiries is a good indicator sales will
James Krapfel, an equity analyst at Morningstar, said the
company should see a slight increase in sales the next year or
two as more federal and local funding becomes available for
"Schools typically have a very regimented process," said
Tyco spokesman Brett Ludwig. "And we have a very robust process
to make sure we provide the right systems for schools."
The Pelham Union Free School District in Pelham, New York,
saw Sandy Hook as a wake up call. The district hired Altaris
Consulting Group, which specializes in emergency planning and
preparedness for K-12 schools, to conduct a $21,600 assesment of
its emergency preparedness.
The assesment was done in early February. It must still
decide what if any security purchases to make.
Houston-based Raptor Technologies, which specializes in
visitor management software for school systems, added 200 new
schools as clients in the five weeks directly following Sandy
CEO Jim Vesterman said that's a quarter of the 800 schools
the company added to its client list in all of 2012, a number he
found significant as it came when most schools were out for two
weeks on holiday vacation. Raptor's most basic visitor tracking
system sells for $1,600.
SECURITY INVESTMENTS NOTHING NEW AFTER TRAGEDY
The rush to improve security in schools following mass
shootings isn't a new development.
Millions of dollars was spent on metal detectors, security
cameras and emergency response plans after 12 students and a
teacher were killed in 1999 at Columbine High School in
The percentage of public schools in the United States using
security cameras nearly doubled in the three years after
Columbine and increased threefold from 19.4 percent in 2000 to
more than 61 percent in 2010, according to the National Center
for Educational Statistics (NCES).
The percentage of schools with closed campuses, meaning they
have protocols for vetting visitors during school hours, also
increased steadily in the 10 years after Columbine. According to
the NCES, nearly 92 percent of public schools reported locking
or monitoring doors during school hours in 2010, up from about
75 percent in 2000. Locked and monitored gates controlling
access to school grounds increased about 25 percent over the
Despite the improvements, consultants specializing in K-12
emergency preparedness say impulse investments in security
systems eventually disappear as budgets tighten and memories of
"People want to plug gaps or find a magical solution right
away and there is a big difference between the two," said Paul
Timm, the president of RETA Security, Inc., a small independent
school security consulting firm.
Timm said his company was booked for months within a week of
the shooting. RETA Security, based in Illinois, focuses on
security assesments and safety plan implementation.
Timm's business has generally focused on regional clients,
but he received calls from small private schools on the eastern
edge of Oregon to large districts in Florida and Connecticut in
the months since Sandy Hook.
For Trump, the first step to managing the flood of business
he receives after national tragedies is weeding out schools
seeking his help as a public relations move.
"I've had one superintendent call and say he didn't care if
we were only in the school building for five minutes, as long as
he could say we were there," Trump said.