School District Puts Safety First With New Technology
Providing a safe school environment is a subject that concerns most communities. As a result, IT teams across the nation are taking steps to protect students, faculty and facilities with security software. As the director of technology for a school district, I was in the same boat and evaluated several solutions. Ultimately, we adopted NaviGate Prepared because it provides us with the cloud-based security protection we need in order to be proactive, efficient and ensure school safety.
School safety is vital to the welfare of the education system. Parents send their children off to school each day with the expectation that their precious loved ones will return home safely. As a result, updating antiquated safety procedures and implementing cutting-edge safety technology is a chief concern among education professionals. However, the market is saturated with software solutions that provide some degree of security coverage, so how do you know which solution is the best fit?
As the director of technology at the St. Charles Public School District, it’s my job to ensure the district is fitted with the best safety technology possible. In 2016, under the leadership of our superintendent I set out to overhaul our security technology and procedures. I knew that I needed a scalable and intuitive solution. I also needed to ensure our new technology offered emergency preparation and plans for fires, tornados and active intruder situations.
In order to effectively complete this task and find the best solution, the superintendent and I took a step back and assessed our existing emergency plans. During the last several years, the school district had already been making a push toward better safety and security. For instance, we added a buzzer entry system to buzz people into the building in order to leave the doors locked during the day. Plus, we added keyless entry systems, so that all access is tied to a staff member’s badge. Following our assessment, we concluded that our security was adequate, but it could benefit from additional security with a focus on centralized communication.
We set out to find a platform that could support the security needs of the district’s 5,000 students, six elementary schools, one intermediate building, one middle school, two high schools and a vocational school. At the end of the day, we decided to invest in NaviGate Prepared. Why NaviGate Prepared? It’s simple. We selected it because of the different features it provides above and beyond general security. The solution offers a product that can consolidate all of the emergency contingency plans and processes in one place. The program also creates an instant notification alert system for the faculty and staff in the St. Charles Public Schools. Instead of taking it one step further, NaviGate Prepared takes it 10 steps further with all of their additional features.
Time-Saving and Life-Saving Features
- Instant Notification
We wanted an easy and efficient way to notify folks of an emergency, specifically in the instance of an intruder situation. Prior to the adoption of NaviGate Prepared, someone would have to get to the PA system and then announce the situation to the entire school, which isn’t practical. We solved that with the platform’s mobile app.
NaviGate Prepared provides instant notification, such as intruder alerts to staff without the need for a PA. It works on an app that is tied to our district and to the specific building faced with the threat. All authorized personnel who have the app loaded on their mobile device can send out an alert if there is an intruder or other emergency. Once the alert is initiated, each person’s device associated with that building buzzes, including central office, and other administrators, so that we can quickly assess the situation and either lock down or get people out of the building.
In addition to instant notification, the app fully integrates with our student information system, which means faculty and staff can access shared student information at their fingertips, which can save precious time and eliminate confusion.
For example, when an active alert is sent, teachers can pull up the app, access that specific class roster and quickly mark who is present and who is missing all within the app’s interface. Additionally, teachers can pull up other classroom lists. If a student is in a different room than what's listed in the app, another teacher can mark that student as accounted for by pulling up the class that “little Johnny” is supposed to be in.
The flipcharts provide a step-by-step process that is accurate and can be accessed with or without an Internet connection once the app is downloaded. These flipcharts provide faculty with detailed instructions for any given emergency. Arming faculty and staff with the technology to initiate an alert, access emergency plans and account for their students immediately all in one application is a game changer.
- 360-Degree Classroom Mapping
Communication between a school and first responders could literally mean the difference between life and death. NaviGate Prepared came out to our district and made a 360-degree map of the rooms in each building. This is helpful for a first responder who needs to see into a classroom that is closed off. These maps can provide detailed instructions on how to evacuate the building or notify emergency responders to the correct valve cutoffs. This information can also be made into reportable data, all compliant with current regulations.
- Drill Logs
Before we implemented this platform, each facility was responsible for updating and managing their emergency procedures and there was no consistency. Each building kept their own drill logs and had their own form that they created.
Now, users can login and look at the maps and floor plans for the building and drill records. Plus, in the drill log section it is easy and intuitive to create and schedule a drill. In fact, users can go into the NaviGate Prepared system via the web and input all the fire drills, tornado drills and intruder drills that we run at each school building. At the end of the year, we can run one report and easily submit this to the state or whoever needs the data.
Implementation and Training
The implementation process for NaviGate Prepared was quick and easy. We piloted with one school first to see if there were issues rolling it out. During that time, NaviGate Prepared came out with a new mobile app. Our elementary school that we used for our pilot process actually became a place to pilot their new app. We were in constant communication with the team at NaviGate Prepared to ensure the software’s functionality met our needs.
My responsibilities specifically included getting all the users into the systems and double-checking all of the maps and drill logs to ensure each building had what it needed, which meant a lot of work with customer service.
I have worked with a lot of different companies to integrate either with our student information system or other systems and the support at NaviGate Prepared is the best support I have ever worked with. Every time we had a suggestion or recommendation they were totally open to it. I can provide critical feedback and NaviGate Prepared takes the steps necessary to implement many of those changes.
Our goal was to be fully rolled out with the new technology by the start of the 2016–2017 school year, which we accomplished. We are fully integrated throughout the district and the software has been performing well. This is so new that we do not have hard metrics, but I can say that keeping track of drill logs is easier. It is easy for the superintendents to come in and see where each building is at with their drill logs. There is even a report that we can look at to see who is overdue on their drills.
Thankfully, we have not had any real life emergencies, but the app and the software do work magnificently. Since faculty and staff were trained—which consisted of a faculty meeting where folks download the app and learned how to use it properly—they have been conducting drills and simulating emergencies. In each instance, we have not had any issues.
It takes several moving parts firing on all cylinders in order to execute the perfect emergency plan. St. Charles Public School District has become a safer school district because of the cloud-based software we implemented, and with NaviGate Prepared, our proactive approach to safety and security gives me complete confidence that if and when we are faced with an emergency situation, our children will be in the best hands possible.