How Snohomish County 9-1-1 Initiated A School Evacuation Through An Emergency Alert App

Picture of Amelia Marceau By Amelia Marceau

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school emergency_editorial-shutterstockWhen a report came in of a gas leak near a school building in Snohomish County, Washington, the 9-1-1 dispatcher taking the report had to quickly communicate with school administrators. By connecting to an emergency alert app, all school staff were immediately notified and were able to initiate evacuation procedures.

Many people in Massachusetts will remember the August 2018 gas leaks in Andover and Lawrence. The disaster caused dozens of homes to burn and community alerts were sent to initiate mass evacuations in the area. Snohomish County, Washington experienced a similar emergency situation. A panicked construction worker called 911 to report an excavator hit a gas line, triggering a large gas leak near North Middle School. The caller was frantically trying to warn individual classrooms and teachers while on the phone trying to give more information to the 911 dispatcher. The phone call then dropped.

Using an Emergency Alert App to Communicate After Dropped 9-1-1 Call

When the Snohomish County dispatcher tried the caller’s number back, no one answered. If the information received was true, the entire North Lake Middle School needed to be evacuated immediately to ensure the students and staff would be unharmed. With very little time to act and limited options, the dispatcher turned to the Rave Panic Button.

Usually, it's a school administrator pressing the Rave Panic Button to summon 9-1-1, but in this case, the Snohomish County 9-1-1 dispatcher was able to tap into a fully-integrated 9-1-1 response system to send a message through the school's mobile panic button app system to all on-site staff and others assigned in the system. The panic button app includes templated or ad-hoc messages that can be sent through the Staff Assist feature and can target internal groups like teachers who are responsible for evacuating students, or going into lockdown in their classroom.

The Snohomish 9-1-1 dispatcher was also able to tap into critical response data through the school's panic button app. The system delivers critical response data to 9-1-1 dispatchers, such as caller location, floor plans, emergency exit locations, emergency contacts, and access codes) so that the dispatcher can quickly provide instructions to first responders, on-site administrators, and security. Having 9-1-1 coordinate with first responders is critical to efficient emergency response. 

>>Read the Webinar Recap - Preparing for the New Climate in School Emergencies

The enhanced coordination between authorized app users, 9-1-1 call takers and first responders saves time when it matters the most. The 911 operator was able to send a message through the Rave Panic Button app to the school’s staff member’s phones, stating, “There is a reported natural gas leak outside on campus. Follow appropriate procedures.” The school was evacuated and police and first responders arrived on the scene. They were able to use facility information to search the building and ensure that everyone had fully cleared out of the school. 

The 911 operator was able to send a message through the Rave Panic Button app to the school’s staff member’s phones, stating, “There is a reported natural gas leak outside on campus. Follow appropriate procedures.”

The panic button app allowed the staff to be updated on the developing situation and law enforcement was able to communicate the reason for the evacuation quickly. Without the app, the staff would not have known the reason for the evacuation until everyone was at the school’s meeting point and the principal briefed them. The chaos would have slowed down procedures, and put the community at further risk. The Rave Panic Button helped to advise staff of the hazard specifics and the potential need to modify their evacuation procedure. It helped to ensure the swift and safe evacuation of the school, demonstrating just one situation where this technology can be leveraged to improve school and community safety.
Snohomish County Casestudy

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Amelia Marceau

Written by Amelia Marceau

Amelia is a marketing intern at Rave. She loves to write and uses her previous experience as the co-editor of The AMSA Voice (her high school’s online newspaper) to bring new ideas to the Rave blog. When she’s away from the keyboard, you’ll either find her falling on the ice with two blades on her feet or competing in a triathlon. Amelia attends the University of Massachusetts Amherst, majoring in Political Science.

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