3 Pillars of Schools Safety: Awareness, Prevention, & Technology
Today’s schools often find themselves facing more and more dangers, from bomb threats to gas leaks. This means it’s more important than ever to make sure that schools are doing the best they can to have all systems ready to go in case of an event.
As Head of Energy, Facilities, and Safety at the Tipton County School District, this is a topic that’s especially near and dear to my heart. It’s my job to make sure that the schools in the Tipton County area are ready for any emergencies that might come up.
To do that, there are three main things I focus on. The first and best tool to fortify a school and ensure the children’s safety is awareness from faculty, staff and students, so that they know what to do if a crisis ever happens. We want everyone involved to know the procedure and follow it to the letter.
The second best tool is prevention—which can be as simple as locking doors, or as complicated as a site audit to figure out safety lapses. Finally, the last, crucial step is having the right hardware and software to make sure your school’s safety program is as good as it can be.
That’s why when the Tipton County School District was given the chance to pilot NaviGate Prepared, a leader in school safety software, I jumped at the chance. Our motto is “Safety is the foundation for any learning environment”, so getting to try out a new way to build up our schools’ safety infrastructure was a no-brainer. Once I learned about all the features NaviGate Prepared has to help us keep our students safe, and allow us to partner even closer with first responders, it was a pretty simple decision to make.
With NaviGate Prepared, our teachers, staff, and first responders have access to instant information in the event of an emergency. And as anyone who is concerned with school safety knows, the more information you have, the more ready you are to avert a tragedy.
We really went about implementing it in a pretty simple way—thanks to NaviGate Prepared helping us keep that much-needed information at our fingertips. The first step was sharing their Interactive Maps and Floorplans with all our staff and the first responders in the area. These are produced by a special camera that’s used on-site in every school to capture a 360-degree view of each room, and they give first responders immediate knowledge of every nook and cranny so they can easily and quickly navigate each school, no matter what level of familiarity they have with the building.
This is also crucial when it comes to school resource officers. We have 14 schools in our district, but only four resource officers are available right now. So, even though we’re currently trying to expand our pool of resource officers, often times they need to rotate from school to school depending on where they’re most needed. Having an easy, quick way for officers who are either new or unfamiliar with a particular building to see where they need to be is crucial in emergencies—and they can review them beforehand to stay prepared and aware.
Electronic Access Saves Time
We’ve also found that having our emergency procedures recorded electronically helps us save essential time. Tipton County, like most school districts, uses flip charts, notebooks, or folders to outline specific procedures in the case of an emergency. But if there’s an incident, it can be difficult or even downright impossible for teachers or first responders to get to these hard copies, since they’re stationary and aren’t always centrally located.
However, by having procedures accessible anytime and anywhere and from any mobile device on NaviGate Prepared, every staff member has the step-by-step emergency procedures at their fingertips. This is really a great thing to have because, as anyone who’s ever been involved in a crisis situation knows, time is of the essence in an emergency event.
Another of NaviGate Prepare’s features that we’ve been finding really useful is the drill logs. Before, we had to get them recorded individually at the school level, but now we can access them electronically in a central location. Not only does this help us make sure that we’re doing our routine drills, it makes them available for anyone to see from their desktop—so we can show the public that we’re doing more than we need to do to keep the students safe.
3 W's of Safety: Who, Where, When
Rehearsing our drills like that also helps us keep calm in a chaotic emergency situation, because everyone already knows what to do. One of the most important steps in our procedure is that teachers need to be able to know if any students are missing. Enter NaviGate Prepared’s Respond feature, which allows us to upload our class schedules and rosters. This means that in the case of an emergency, teachers and staff immediately know who’s present and who’s not around. This helps administration and first responders pare down who they’re looking for, and identify their last known location.
Even better, it can be accessed from anywhere on or off campus, as well as on mobile. This saves vital time in an emergency situation. We don’t have to worry about collecting all of that information from individual teachers and can save precious minutes during an emergency. It’s really an incredible feature. Hopefully we never have to use it, but if we ever did have a live emergency event, we’d really be relying on it to help first responders navigate the situation.
My only wish is that the entire NaviGate Prepared program was accessible via mobile phone—especially those interactive maps I mentioned before, because that would allow first responders to get to their destination even faster. Still, with the speed at which technology moves these days, I’d bet that very soon all of the great features of NaviGate will be available on their mobile app.
That’s the best thing about NaviGate Prepared—they’re always innovating. And with their software, I can make sure the Tipton County School District is constantly doing everything in our power to uphold our mission of providing safety as the foundation to a successful learning environment.