School Safety Reflections

Recently, I reflected back on my involvement with school safety and the changes during the past 36 years. In the eighties, school safety was focused on accident prevention. Fire drills were the only active exercises conducted with any regularity. Safety inspections were most frequently conducted by the local fire department, or with guidance from the district’s insurance company’s risk management section, to eliminate “hazards” that could cause injury to students and staff. Back then, death at school was rare and usually occurred as a result of a medically fragile student or a particularly unfortunate accident. School “security” meant closing the windows and locking the doors, and maybe setting the burglar alarm at the end of the day to protect the property. Today, school shootings have become so prevalent that school violence is included among the myriad hazards and threats that are addressed by the term “school safety.” Thirty years ago, school staff and students didn’t think about school shootings. Today, they do.

Why the change happened may be a reflection of a changes in our society, but when the widespread public perception that change was needed began first in 1998 with the Jonesboro, Arkansas school shooting, followed by Columbine High School in 1999. These two events were widely publicized and analyzed, and the beginnings of realization began to drive changes at schools and in how law enforcement responds to these types of events. Threat assessment, restorative justice, school safety teams, anti-bullying programs, detailed crisis management plans, School Resource Officers, lockdown drills – all these things have been developed over the years and are contributing to safer schools in our changing society. The issues of thirty years ago still apply, but the new normal has complicated the realm of school safety.

Last week, we worked with a Metro-Denver area school district who just received a two-way radio interoperability system through Colorado’s new SAFER grant program. The system allows school radios to “inter-operate” with police, fire, EMS and the 911 call center’s radios, on-demand and as needed, using radios to pass and receive critical information during a school emergency. While working through several emergency scenarios using two-way radios, the Superintendent made an important observation: he said interoperability is a useful capability and the exercises and practice is what would make the difference for school staff during various school emergencies.

At SchoolSAFE, our training program was developed to teach our clients to communicate effectively using two-way radio during challenging scenarios based on events that have actually occurred at schools. We don’t focus only on our worst fear of school violence, like the active shooter, but also include the myriad of other hazards in our exercises. We do this work, as you do, to make a difference. Last week’s comment by the superintendent helps validate one of our core beliefs – focused practice will help us respond more effectively when the unthinkable happens, no matter the “school safety” situation.

June 2019


National Safe Schools Week October 21-27, 2018

Safe Schools Week: What Can You Do?

It is Safe Schools Week this week, October 21-27, 2018, sponsored by state governors, state school superintendents, and The National School Safety Center. It is a week to recognize the success of positive efforts made in school safety as well as encourage others to improve their safety programs. Children cannot learn in an unsafe environment; safety is of paramount importance to ensure the well-being and provide a quality education for every student.

What can you do to improve your school’s safety? We’re so glad you asked!

-Ask about or evaluate the Safety Team at the school. Who is on it? Are they practicing crisis communications? Are they updating their emergency plans? There are many resources to make sure those plans are up to date. We are big proponents of the School Safety Resource Center here in Colorado. There is a lot of great information on their site.

-What is the district doing to provide resources to improve school safety? Is there support from the entire district? If not, how can that change in a positive, proactive manner? Many districts have a safety director or student services director who helps with the safety plans. Contact them to learn more about what is being done in the district to improve the safety of all students.

-How are the existing relationships with community partners? When is the last time the school worked with its local fire department, police department, or sheriff’s office? These professionals are such a vital resource and they want to help. If the school hasn’t reached out to them yet, this is a great time to make the connection. We provide an interoperable communications program to help facilitate these relationships and to allow public safety to speak to schools on their existing radios with hardware, software, and training. Learn more here.

-When was the latest safety training the school and district conducted? If not recently, when can the next one be scheduled?

-Are all staff members empowered to call a lockdown? How would they do so safely? Do they need access to radios, a PA system, or phone?

-During an emergency, is the school getting quality information to the 9-1-1 dispatcher? If not, how can you improve internal information to help the professional first responders be as efficient and effective as possible?

-How’s the reunification plan? When we train schools, we frequently hear that the reunification plan could be exercised and improved. It’s daunting but well worth understanding the systems in place.

-Need funding to improve communications? There are grants available in Colorado, apply for the SAFER grant by December 3

We advocate for quality plans, practices, and communications during an emergency. Even if  10 minutes of this week (or month’s) staff meeting is spent on one emergency scenario and how it could have been improved, it can help empower school personnel and improve the next situation.

Other ways to improve yourself during a school emergency:

-Get educated! FEMA has great resources to learn how to improve a response and understand how public safety organize themselves in the Incident Command System

-Think about previous scenarios that have occurred at the school or throughout the district. What went well? What could have been better? What would you have done in those situations?

Any constructive attempts to improve school safety are well worth the time and potential investment. This week is a great week to see what you can do to improve any aspect of school safety in your area. Need more help? We’re here! Don’t hesitate to contact us to learn more.

School Safety Grants

School Safety Grants

Here at SchoolSAFE, we pride ourselves in our ability to empower community partnerships. Throughout our trainings, we watch school safety teams and public safety personnel work together to improve their communications during an emergency. An added bonus during these trainings occurs when ideas are shared between the professional first responders and those in charge at the school because improvements are made. Many times, within the discussions for improvement include the necessity of funding to accomplish what was talked about.  With the current climate in school safety, there are many opportunities to apply for funding. Improvements to schools in their communications efforts, controlled access, interoperability, and safety personnel are all included in the multiple grants currently open for application. Here in Colorado, for example, the SAFER Grant is available to provide hardware, software, and training for interoperable communications. Throughout the country, we have seen a number of other open grants. Some are listed below. Never hesitate to apply, it is worth the effort to aim to get funding to improve your school(s) and district safety measures.


SAFER grant

-School security disbursement grant


-Capitalized equipment grant


-Physical security of buildings


-School safety improvements

New Hampshire

-School hardening

Increasing School Safety with First Responders

District 27J is now a SchoolSAFE Certified Ready School. Read our latest case study about their experience in improving interoperable communications and school safety.

District 27J Case Study_Final

Best Practices: Communications Teamwork

There are many aspects to a school safety plan. A very important component of that plan is crisis communications. There are various existing safety technologies in the schools and they are fortunate to have them (e.g. cameras, automated door locks/restricted access, alarms, etc.), but without communications, the above tools are not as effective as they could be.

In the event of a fire, regardless of the alarms, sprinklers, flashing lights, and evacuation plan, staff at the school will be much more effective at controlling the situation if they are able to communicate with each other.

Landline phones in classrooms, public address systems or intercoms, and even cell phones all aid in the response to a crisis event. But what happens if there isn’t access to the above? Cell phone towers become overloaded during a large emergency making them ineffective. Licensed two-way radios use radio frequencies and will work when other methods of communication fail or cannot be accessed.

In order to best utilize two-way radios effectively during a crisis, radio users must undergo training to properly communicate with first responders. The ability to connect with public safety or other organizations  via two-way radios, also known as interoperability, is paramount to school safety. We have found that training the leaders of a school, or the school safety team, how to best speak on their two-way radio enables the other safety equipment technologies in the school to be most useful.

When discussing  interoperability, the most understandable parallel is “communications teamwork.” The leaders or school safety team  is best suited to work with school-aged children. The leaders or public safety first responders are best suited to responding to emergencies. Through teamwork, school leaders can describe to first responders the location of an incident, the best door to access that location, if all students have been counted or if there are several still in the building and when the buses will arrive to take the students off-campus. Public safety, in turn, can help guide school personnel who carry radios to get the students to safety as quickly as possible. Through this teamwork, community partnerships are built and open the door to discussions about safety best practices throughout your school district and community.

Even with the state-of-the-art safety technologies in a school or throughout a district, the ability to communicate with each other at the school and with first responders who will help resolve a crisis is a vital aspect of any safety plan.

Take Pueblo School District 70 as an example; Pueblo is one of the largest geographical school districts in Colorado, with a heavy focus on school safety. The district started with very few safety technologies. The first step to improve their safety measures was recognizing the importance of communications throughout the schools. Stakeholders across the district saw that there was a need for effective two-way radio use, as well as “communications interoperability” with first responders in the area. District 70 has been a school safety pioneer not only in Colorado, but throughout the country.

Learn more about their progress with communications teamwork in Colorado.

SchoolSAFE Best Practices and Community Partnerships

At SchoolSAFE, we get many questions about school safety, best practices, and how to make communities more savvy in how they prepare for emergencies. We recently received several great inquiries about school safety practices from SchoolSAFE users, including: how do school districts handle preventative maintenance for emergencies? And, are first responders and school districts required to participate in trainings together to become SchoolSAFE Certified Ready?

Every school district is unique in their planning and execution of safety practices. One of our best examples of preparation and proactivity is in Pueblo, Colorado. The school district started by discussing various all-hazards scenarios at each school and referred to the district’s crisis plans to effectively respond. By doing so, administrators, teachers, and local public safety agencies were able to discover, mold, and develop best practices for teamwork day-to-day and during emergencies. They later learned that their ultimate tool for effective teamwork is the two-way radio in the schools. It enables each school to connect directly with professional responders and district personnel, putting everyone on a reliable, common channel to expedite the response.

First responders came to the table and provided their input on how the school could improve their response. They focused on the initial trigger to the incident – (lock down, lock out, evacuate or shelter), how and when the schools call 9-1-1, and how to evaluate a situation and share information “in real time.” Through the SchoolSAFE Certified Ready Schools Program by Motorola Solutions, relationships between school personnel and first responders flourished. The program required teamwork and training for all entities involved, FCC licensed radios, the SchoolSAFE physical network that bridges the channels together, tactical interoperable communications exercises, and continuing education throughout the partnership.

We have seen that decision-makers in both the school district and public safety grasp the importance of working together to create the most effective and timely response.

Do your students and community a favor, and share this information with your school or district. We need to work together to help fund and implement the technologies and procedures that enable teamwork among school and district-based responders as well as professional public safety responders. We are here to help your community discuss, plan, and implement your next steps. We appreciate educators and first responders for all that they do and for reaching out to us on this very important subject. -SSC

Contact us to learn more about how you can bring SchoolSAFE to your district.


Funding and Grant Assistance in the Education Vertical

Finding money for technology and solutions can be a bit of a head-scratcher. How can you help financially support a proposal? Do you have money in the budget? No? Ok, then grants? What grants are available? None?

In funding the various SchoolSAFE implementations throughout the country, we’ve had to be rather resourceful. SchoolSAFE enhances community partnerships by providing an interoperability solution for schools, the district, and public safety. One district was able to raise money for SchoolSAFE with fundraisers. Another followed a cost share model, asking each participating entity to fund a small piece of the total proposal instead of relying on one entity to pay for the entire project.

Another customer found funds through the E-911 Authority Board, as SchoolSAFE is a tool for dispatchers and communications centers.

But when those options don’t work, how else can you find money? We recently learned that Praetorian Digital has an Education Grant Help division, a new group focused solely on finding and assisting customers with the grant process. Not only do they actively seek out available grants through various platforms (government grants, corporate grants, private entity grants, for example), they will review grants in the writing process and provide invaluable input.
The success rate is impressive, too. Currently, 18% of applications are successful. With the Education Grant Help’s assistance, that number jumps to 40%. Their knowledgeable writers also apply for multiple grants for a project, improving the odds of receiving funding.
We are extremely excited about working with this group. With their expertise and guidance, we will be able to help our customers find the monies needed to improve their radio communications between schools and first responders. -SSC

For more information, check out their website:

You can also contact us for more information.



The Briefings at Columbine: SchoolSAFE Panel

The Briefings, A National School Safety Symposium at Columbine High School, invited SchoolSAFE Communications to present on the importance of direct communication between schools and first responders.

The symposium was hosted by the I Love U Guys Foundation, a non-profit created to “restore and protect the joy of youth through educational programs and positive actions in collaboration with families, schools, communities, organizations and government entities.”

SchoolSAFE’s presentation featured a perspective on radio communications from a district safety director, sheriff’s office bureau chief, and a boots on the ground responder.

Mike Coleman, with SchoolSAFE, discussed the importance of two-way radio communication and provided information on the difference with and without real time radio communication between schools and first responders.

Tim Moore, a Bureau Chief at Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, walked through the time saved during the riveting re-enactment of a bomb scare event in a Douglas County School and the bettered outcome with SchoolSAFE.

Greg Keasling, the Director of Student Services at Pueblo District 70, discussed how he has integrated the importance of communication in his district and how it has changed the culture within the schools. He emphasized the importance of full-scale exercises that include multiple agencies, school personnel, and students, as well as the value of the lessons they learn after each exercise.

Micah Richardson, the Director of Safety and Response at Southeast Christian Church and School in Colorado, as well as a former EMT, discussed the “Response Window,” who is involved, the relationships needed, and the valuable information that is shared prior to entering the emergency situation.

The Briefings, an annual and week-long event, features nationally recognized speakers and experts on school safety and , “examines lessons learned from traumatic events and reveals new preemptive school safety measures.” Attendees included school safety team members, administrators, first responders, victims’ advocates, and volunteers. -SSC

To learn more about the I Love U Guys Foundation, click here

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