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Smart technology increases student safety, efficiency at Florence 1 high schools

All three Florence 1 high schools have new security equipment in place, increasing student safety while also making the student intake process quicker. As of the end of January, all three schools have them fully operational. Currently, there are two Evolv Express machines at each of the schools with plans to add a third.

Doug Nunnally, director of security and school safety for Florence 1 Schools, said that the free-flow system is a big improvement from a traditional metal detector.

“The old equipment, which is still being used widely throughout the world, requires either x-ray machines or for you to search every bag; the other option would be limiting what you’re allowed to bring in,” Nunnally said. “In our environment, where we are screening so many people in a really narrow window of time, it is a challenge.”

Nunnally said that with the Evolv machines staff members won’t have to search student bags each morning.

“They have incorporated smart technology, artificial intelligence and different algorithms, to screen out all of the things that we normally carry like keys and cellphones,” Nunnally said. “They like to call these weapons detection systems because they are designed to detect weapons and explosives, things like firearms and larger knives. The equipment is in really big demand all across the country. We are only the second school district in the nation to employ these; no one has rolled out as many as we have.”

South Florence Assistant Principal Brendon Coe said that the new equipment is making the morning routine much smoother for everyone.

“The new machines actually speed our process up,” Coe said. “It allows us to scan around 1,300 kids every morning in less than an hour. It is safer and it is more efficient, saving time and taking the strain off of teachers searching every individual bag.”

Evolv Detector Screen

 Coe said that along with being quicker, the new technology helps pinpoint anything that might set off the alarm.

“With the new detectors, if a student sets it off when they walk through, an image comes up on the screen and there is actually a red box around the area where the metal is,” Coe said. “That makes it a whole lot easier to search because you know whether it is actually on the child or if it is in their bookbag.”

South Florence Senior Meredith Baxley said that she has already seen a difference with the new equipment.

 “The older metal detectors were really a hassle,” Baxley said. “The lines in the morning time would be out the door. With the new ones it is a lot more efficient and it is easier to detect things; it shows exactly the spot where something goes off. It makes us feel a lot safer and it prevents something bad from happening.”

Nunnally said that the new machines are part of a comprehensive effort to move the district away from simply reacting to situations.

“Along with the physical security steps, there is a training component,” Nunnally said. “I like to be pro-active and be prepared, as opposed to being reactive. We conduct monthly lockdown drills, or active threats drills as we call them, at every school. Previously all we would do is shut the doors and close the blinds and go around to check everything. That is a very narrow response to a wide-range of situations and conditions; we have to start incorporating those other response capabilities into what we do. In any emergency, it really breaks down into two options, shelter in place or evacuate. However, there are other parts of those that you have to know, like where do you evacuate to, what do I do if I encounter the threat as I’m evacuating. We are really trying to make everyone think about all aspects of situation awareness.”