With the recent tragic events in Florida, it’s evident that schools require more tools to help ensure their students’ safety. With that, school and municipal officials all over the country are looking for more advanced ways to combat gun violence.
While there is no perfect solution for the myriad of threats and emergencies with which our schools are confronted, many have looked to technology to help improve communications before, during and after incidents.
For schools across the state of Arkansas; Nassau County, New York; Snohomish County, Washington; New Castel County, Delaware; Limestone County, Alabama and scores of others, the answer was the implementation of technologies that connect school personnel directly with local police, fire and EMS, and designated individuals at the school.
Communication tools have proven invaluable when a potential active shooter situation was being discussed on social media
Key to these schools’ choice in technology was the recognition that while the most traumatic of threats is the active assailant, any technology investment should be just as effective in handling the more frequent day-to-day incidents.
Communication technologies for incident management
How have technologies such as mobile panic buttons and anonymous texting helped impact school safety? Here are a few examples:
In Limestone County, Alabama, 9-1-1 Director Brandon Wallace led an effort to implement technology tools across the county to help prevent and more quickly notify personnel of possible emergency situations. Communication tools have proven invaluable especially when a potential active shooter situation was being discussed on social media.
Advanced technology integration
The technology not only connected directly to emergency personnel, but also ensured that school faculty were able to communicate with one another during a potential emergency and account for students.
Following the tragic shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, the school superintendent Dr. Joseph V. Erardi, Jr. chose to make communication technology a part of their new safety plan.
The integration of advanced technology has given staff and teachers a greater sense of safety with not only active shooter events but also events like medical emergencies that require fast action and a quick response from public safety officials.
Trainings ensure that staff and students are prepared for any type of situation and be on the same page in an emergency situation
Implementing enhanced safety measures
What are some lessons learned from these schools that can be applied to protect students in other areas? Here are some tips for implementing more safety measures into schools:
- Make sure your solution has a daily use. Unfortunately, many great technologies have sat unused when emergencies struck simply because those involved weren’t familiar with them or were under extreme duress and forgot about them. Training is an obvious necessity, but finding solutions with daily use cases (such as value in medical emergencies) can have a huge impact not only on ROI but also during an incident.
- Evaluate past incidents. Response during past incidents can always help future plans. Whether incidents have been handled well or have room for improvement, it’s important to continue to develop incident responses. For Limestone County, Alabama, the use of technology in their response plan was first tested during a medical emergency which helped to confirm the continued use within the school. Knowing the ease of use and responsiveness of emergency response tools, the county decided to build upon the technology already in place to help thwart future incidents.
- Train staff on the newest measures. Snohomish County, Washington holds trainings with teachers and staff, alongside local emergency personnel to prepare for active shooter incidents. Trainings ensure that staff and students can be prepared for any type of situation and be on the same page in the event of an emergency. Especially as new technology is introduced, integrating the tools with staff first will help ensure greater adoption throughout the process.
- Integrate practice drills. Fire drills are a common part of the school year; why not implement practicing other scenarios which may affect your school? Not only will this help with preparedness but will also highlight any measures that might need to be adjusted. New tools can then be tested to ensure that all staff and students are comfortable in the event they will need to utilise it in the future. Expand those involved in your drills to be those who will actually be involved in an incident. All too often, drills are siloed and don’t include outside agencies.
Re-evaluating safety procedures
Schools across the country can learn a lot from districts that have implemented and actually used new communications technologies addressing school safety, which are leading the way in how teachers and faculty are preparing to keep students safe.
However, it will remain important to re-evaluate safety procedures and integrate technology to help ensure that these steps remain effective. As the tools continue to advance, the available safety measures will only continue to grow.