Choose Safety This National School Choice Week

It’s National School Choice Week 2019! This is the time of year where families participate in thousands of information sessions, open houses, school fairs, and celebrations all over the country to help inform them about the different K-12 schooling options available. And there is really so much to consider; location, the qualifications of the teaching staff, the quality of school lunches, etc. With the increase in school shootings and other violent events, the quality of a school’s crisis management and response is definitely at the forefront of most parents minds. After all, how can a child focus on learning if their basic need for safety isn’t met?

Not sure what to look for in your school’s safety? Below are some target areas to focus on in assessing school safety as you make important decisions in your child’s education.

Emergency Notification Systems (ENS)

Emergency notification systems allow schools to deliver timely, potentially life-saving notification in the event of an emergency or other critical incidents. Most ENS provide means to communicate across a wide variety of alerting devices on campus to provide notification and instructions for students to follow to remain safe. Whether it is a complete ENS or a more modest Distributed Recipient Mass Notification System (DRMNS) - focused on just personal notification such as email, text, and phone calls - having the means to communicate to your child, when needed, is imperative when considering the safety of your child’s school.

Ask Yourself:

  • Does my child’s school provide a way to notify my child, regardless of where they are on campus in the event of an emergency?

Code and Mandate Compliant

Consider whether your child’s school is compliant with major codes and mandates. Codes like NFPA 72 “provide the latest provisions to meet society’s changing fire detection, signaling, and emergency communications demands” (NFPA, 2019). NFPA 72 stipulations help facilities ensure that all students and faculty can be reached in an emergency and overcome common challenges such as:

  • Buildings without an existing PA system

  • Buildings without 24/7 staffing for consistent oversight

  • Reaching individuals with auditory or visual impairments

  • Loud environments

  • Email notifications too slow and unreliable

  • Cellular network outages/dead zones

  • The high volume of visitors/contractors not in contact databases

Ask Yourself:

  • Does my child’s school abide by major safety codes and mandates?

  • Does my child’s school account for common challenges with emergency communication that could prove detrimental?

Outdoor Notification

Most schools, especially high schools or secondary educational facilities, have multiple buildings, outdoor sports fields, and other disparate locations that students may find themselves during an emergency. Parents looking to assess their child’s safety should ensure that the school has outdoor notification as another piece of the emergency management puzzle. Wide-area mass notification, or outdoor notification, systems can provide real-time information to outdoor areas in the form of loud tones and even descriptive, spoken messages with the use of text-to-speech technology, to assure that your child receives the proper instructions to safely respond to the incident.

Ask Yourself:

  • Does your child’s school have the means to notify students if an incident happens outside of the main building?

School Resource Officers (SROs)

For many students, the first adult they see every day at school is not the principal or a teacher. It is often a school resource officer or SRO. The duties of an SRO range from directing bus traffic and settling disputes, to keep an eye out for potential threats to the students and faculty. Whatever the SRO’s duties, he/she is a trained officer and serves as the school’s first line of defense during a critical incident, and can be the difference between life and death.

Ask Yourself:

  • Does your child’s school have an SRO? Does my child’s school have a strong line of defense against potential intruders and other acts of violence?

Alertus Technologies is a Unified Emergency Mass Notification company. We specialize in notification solutions for K-12 schools, higher education schools, community centers, and much more. If you’re looking for free resources to help you or your school better understand and facilitate emergency management, please visit the Alertus Resources. Also, check out some other helpful resources from trusted organizations like Safe and Sound Schools and the I Love U Guys Foundation.

Sharice Ruan