District 27J is now a SchoolSAFE Certified Ready School. Read our latest case study about their experience in improving interoperable communications and school safety.
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.
-Capitalized equipment grant
-Physical security of buildings
-School safety improvements
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.
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.