“Time is of the essence. [The] Marjory Stoneman [Douglas tragedy] taught us that.”
– Dave Lupinetti, Charlotte County Public School District (FL)
We all understand how prompt emergency awareness and response can drastically impact any situation. We also all recognize how fast emergencies escalate and why a panic button is a critical need for any school.
Panic button solutions have the same goal: to expedite awareness of and response to emergencies. But not all systems are created equal and not all vendors can provide a solution and partnership that are truly valuable. As you evaluate panic button solutions for your school or district, make sure to ask these five questions:
1) Who can initiate the panic button and what information does it share with school staff, teachers, SROs, and first responders?
Best practice is to empower teachers and staff to summon the right help from wherever they are on campus, whether that help be a school administrator, onsite security personnel, law enforcement, the fire department, or health officials. The most powerful mobile panic button solutions greatly expedite awareness and response by doing just that, as well as enabling users to directly connect with 9-1-1 and send detailed, situation-specific notifications to a custom list of recipients. These alerts—ideally sent across text message, email, voice call, and push notification—should provide the type, location, and time of the incident and who initiated the emergency.
Because some staff can move from one campus to another, it’s imperative that your solution can confirm exactly where each user is when they initiate a panic button and send alerts based on that location. This capability reduces the potential for false alarms, allows users to share their location on an interactive map, and seamlessly switch between campuses without having to worry about their panic button—or the alerts that are sent out—being tied to where their main office is. This expedites response by letting the appropriate personnel and first responders know exactly where they are needed. The solution should only access and track user location during an active emergency.
For schools who do not want every teacher or staff member to have access to initiating a lockdown—for example—the panic button solution should also allow you to configure user permissions. This makes sure you are in complete control of emergency initiation.
2) Are users and first responders able to access critical school data like emergency protocols and floor plans?
Emergency response hinders on everyone having the information they need to act. Best practice is to have a panic button solution that allows users—teachers, staff, first responders, and incident commanders, for example—to have quick and easy access to your protocols, school maps, and other critical documents in one application.
If a teacher needs to read your emergency operations plan (EOP) to remind himself what steps to take in a lockdown, it should be readily accessible on his mobile device or tablet so that wherever he is—or wherever he goes—that information is at his fingertips.
If a first responder is not familiar with your campus, she must have detailed school maps to know how to navigate the hallways. When the school map is accessible on any web-enabled device, this can reduce response time and ultimately save lives. She doesn’t have to stop to talk to the SRO or school administrators for directions. Instead, she can just go exactly where she is needed.
The panic button solution should enable you to upload, organize, and display any PDF document you want, including building maps, protocol procedures, and EOPs. These documents should be accessible 24/7 on any web-enabled device, including the solution’s mobile app.
3) How does the panic button solution support emergency response once the alerts are sent?
Alerting others that there is a crisis is only an initial step in emergency response. The panic button should also enable staff, first responders, and incident commanders to communicate in real-time through group messaging. Intuitive dashboards should be updating in real-time so incident commanders can see exactly what is happening from wherever they are located. This level of transparency allows emergency personnel to deploy resources where they’re needed most.
To fully protect everyone inside of your schools, your panic button needs to seamlessly integrate with a comprehensive emergency management platform that empowers you to:
- Practice and analyze drills
- Summon the right help for any situation
- Account for each individual on campus, including visitors, contractors, guardians, and volunteers
- Reunify students with guardians
- Create instantaneous and updated status reports and after-incident reports
- Integrate with your visitor and volunteer management solutions
4) Can the panic button solution be customized to your specific needs?
Every district has different priorities, procedures, and challenges. The best technology is customizable to align to your school and district needs.
Customizing your panic button solution to your emergency response protocols ensures that teachers, staff, and first responders stay in compliance with your policies and are speaking the same language during an emergency. Even as your protocols evolve over time, you can be confident that everyone is following your latest, most up-to-date procedures.
The panic button solution should ideally come with preset configurations and be aligned with industry-leading protocols like those from The “I Love U Guys” Foundation.
5) Can the panic button help schools respond to everyday, localized incidents?
Planning for wide-scale emergencies is critical, but issues related to localized incidents are more frequent. You’ve probably already responded to more than one irate visitor, student fight, or flooded restroom. You know how these everyday situations can quickly escalate. There is also a growing concern that we will see an increase in violent behavior as schools reopen and students return to the classroom. Students experiencing long-term emotional, behavioral, and psychological effects from the pandemic may be defiant and aggressive. Some students may also be in crisis depending on the stressors of their various situations. Further, The U.S. Secret Service Analysis of Targeted School Violence report analyzed incidents over one academic year and found that 41% happened within the first week back to school following a break. The panic button system must allow teachers and staff to summon help for localized scenarios so the appropriate personnel can respond to, identify, and resolve the issue.
Fully Protect Your Schools with an Integrated Solution
Investing in the right people and tools creates the ultimate benefit: safety and peace of mind for everyone in your community. When evaluating panic button solutions, consider how the solution meets your needs and supports a comprehensive emergency management approach. Also consider the relationship between yourself and the vendor; they should be more than a software vendor. They should be a true collaborator with know-how and empathy who puts your mission and goals first. They should have the resources and tools to ensure that the solution is reliable and that your student, staff, and school data is always protected.
A mobile panic alert system, Raptor® Alert expedites awareness and response to localized incidents and school- or district-wide emergencies and complies with Alyssa’s Law. Raptor Alert allows any authorized user to initiate an incident, connect with 9-1-1 directly from the app, share their location, communicate via real-time group messaging, and share critical documents and maps with first responders. Users can also initiate incidents on their desktop or tablet. Raptor Alert is a component of Raptor® Emergency Management, an integrated platform that allows schools to maintain real-time visibility during drills, active incidents, and reunification events.
Raptor was founded in 2002 with the mission to protect every child, every school, every day. Over 35,000 K-12 schools nationwide are protected by at least one Raptor integrated safety solution. To learn more about Raptor, contact us today to set up a personalized demo.