Why Schools Need Better Emergency Communication Software

As schools begin to reopen and return to regular hours with the gradual decline of the COVID-19 pandemic, concerns about school security will once again become a primary concern on the part of parents, students, teachers and administration. There is little doubt that at some point in the future, there will be another active shooter putting lives at risk. Schools need to make sure now that they are prepared, both for this and for the many other emergencies that represent a threat to their populations.

There is no question about the fact that the faster first responders arrive on the scene of an active shooter incident, the less harm and loss of life will occur. Equally important is for those police officers to have as much information as possible about the unfolding incident and the scene. This includes knowing the location of the shooter, where to find any wounded individuals, what door to enter to reach those areas most rapidly, etc.

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Typically, the police response to an active shooter event begins with a 911 call. While the 911 system provides a vital support mechanism across the country, for a situation in which a person enters a school with a weapon, it can fall short. The average police response time to a 911 call is 18 minutes. The average school shooting lasts only 8 minutes from beginning to end. In that brief time, many lives can be lost, many others irreparably damaged. In fewer than six minutes, 17 individuals were fatally shot and 17 others wounded at Marjory Stoneman Douglas school. At Sandy Hook Elementary School, 26 people were lost in 12 minutes.

In an emergency like this, even a single minute lost in response time represents an immense threat. A better way is needed to let schools communicate quickly and efficiently with law enforcement and other first responders.

Better emergency communications software for schools
The best communications app for schools in an emergency will provide support for every stage of the incident and response, ideally as follows:

  1. Initial incident report or detection of emergency situation
    If an enrolled user makes a report through the app, the software automatically transmits a physical location along with the user’s profile, including any medical information and emergency contacts.
    A report may also be automatically triggered by the detection of a weapon via an integrated video surveillance system
  2. Authorities alerted
    Law enforcement, first responders or other authorities connected via the software are notified of the situation and provided with initial information
  3. Assessment and response optimization
    Dispatchers assess pre-populated information about the facility including entry points, physical environment and number of students and staff. They can also relay interactive campus maps, photos of the site and room layouts and other useful data. This information helps responders en route determine the best and fastest actions to take once they reach the site, including which door to use to enter the facility.
  4. Live camera feeds
    Officers can view live camera feeds in real time, with zoom functionality, enabling them to watch the developing situation and make tactical adjustments as needed.
  5. Mass notification to the school
    Once responders have been activated, all parties involved receive a notification with further safety instructions. With a PA system integration, authorities can even speak directly to the shooter to help de-escalate the situation, or issue campus-wide audio alerts to direct students, teachers and staff away from the shooter and to safety.
  6. Remote lock and unlock of doors
    Through an integration with electronic access control, authorities can use the software to lock or unlock facility doors. This makes it possible to enter through the door closest to the location of the shooter, saving precious minutes in neutralizing the threat.

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Faster response saves lives in an emergency. When law enforcement is provided with detailed information about the unfolding incident, they are even better equipped to respond quickly and efficiently, making the best decisions about where to go first and how to help most.

There is no level of threat higher than that of an armed individual on school premises. With dozens or hundreds of students, teachers and staff in the classrooms, offices and hallways, an active shooter has the opportunity to cause tremendous harm in a very short time. Whether you are a parent, a student or an administrator, the time to take action is now.

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