1. As a starting point, we need some means of quickly communicating in an emergency. At the most rudimentary level that means shouting for help or sending a runner to the office with a message. If we’re lucky, we can go beyond that.
2. If we have at least a basic budget we have intercoms and class telephones that actually work, regardless of the weather, and using backed-up power sources. These devices need to be installed somewhere readily accessible in a crisis. School staff members throughout the site, office staff and the local police need to be able to reach each other quickly. Basic “panic” buttons may be installed at the front desk.
3. Now it starts getting interesting. Improved versions will provide school staff with portable communication devices or applications involving a variety of devices: ipads, desktop computers, radios, cell phones or emergency pendants. It’s rapidly becoming standard for these to automatically communicate the location of the user, so emergency responders can find them. (i.e. BoldSOS www.boldgroup.com)
4. Students are gaining direct communication options as well. They can push emergency buttons mounted on posts on the school grounds, automatically turning on cameras and 2-way speakers, alerting staff when help is needed. They can also wear personal communication devices, ranging from cell phones with emergency application and tracking buttons (see www.life360.com, pictured above) to emergency pendants piggy-backing on cell phone, mesh or intranet technologies. Life360 provides a free downloadable app that lets you keep your loved ones apprised of your location. Safety Grid provides an interesting, free downloadable app that allows you to set up a virtual panic button, sending a silent alarm to up to five recipients who can then determine your location via gps.
5. Electronic message boards and communication through email, texts, twitter, and the local media may be incorporated, bringing students, families and the community into the loop. High end public address systems can be customized with hundreds of pre-recorded messages, sent to only certain areas, and clearly audible amidst noisy crowds under chaotic conditions. (i.e. Barix mass notification technologies www.barix.com )
6. Cameras may be incorporated, making it easier for emergency responders to see exactly what’s going on.
7. The slickest devices and software tie everything together: internet-based (i.p.) devices, wireless technology, digital signs, PA speakers, etc., are all easily interfaced. At this point there are almost no limits to what can be done technologically. You can send messages to individuals or pre-defined groups. You can customize messages or use recordings. For one example, check out Metis Secure Command Center software www.metissecure.com )
The bottom line is: it just keeps getting better, more sophisticated, more customizable and easier to use. Stay tuned for future updates, or let me know if there’s something you’d like help finding.