In a recent study on school violence by the Center for Disease Control - Division of Violence Prevention, 16% of K-12 students reported carrying a weapon of some sort to school at least once in the previous month. 5% reported carrying a gun to school over the same time period.
Elementary schools are particularly vulnerable to external safety threats. More than 50% of school violence inside an elementary school involves an adult intruder, compared to just 10% in middle and high schools. On the contrary, middle and high school campuses report a higher incidence of interpersonal student violence, such as fighting and bullying.
While threats to school safety vary across school-aged children, every campus needs innovative emergency technology and comprehensive safety protocols that support rapid response to all safety threats, from medical emergencies to active assailants. Establishing open lines of communication between teachers and staff, school security, and first responders can ensure that everyone in the school stays safe.
Silent Communication Prevents School Shooting
Last month, Marion County Public Schools and local 911 officials were able to leverage a panic button system for schools in order to keep all students and faculty safe from an active assailant incident. On Thursday, October 5th, shots were fired outside the Marion High School campus. An unnamed witness believed to be tied to the shooter took cover inside a nearby business and dialed 9-1-1. Marion County Emergency Management answered the distress call and knew immediately the shooting had occurred near the school’s campus and that the shooter was still at large. Marion High School’s campus also includes the community’s Intermediate, Middle, and Junior schools, placing an extremely large number of students and staff at risk. Fortunately, emergency management officials were able to alert all schools of the active shooter incident through the Rave Panic Button app. Safety procedures were immediately implemented and the entire campus moved into lockdown mode. All students and staff that were outside at the time of the shooting were quickly moved back inside the school facility where they sheltered in place until receiving the all-clear message.
This is not the first time that Marion County has utilized the Rave Panic Button app to protect students. Just last year a student at Marion High School reported overhearing another student bragging about bringing a gun to school. The teacher immediately clicked the “Active Shooter” button in the app, instantly alerting all faculty and staff while simultaneously dialing 9-1-1. The school’s resource officer was able to respond quickly with a second officer arriving within two minutes. Within 8 minutes, the student and gun were secured and no one was hurt. The school was able to evacuate quickly and everyone on campus remained safe.
Medical Emergencies Also Require Rapid Communication
Limestone County, Alabama
In 2016, Limestone County and Athens City were two of the first school systems in the state of Alabama to adopt an emergency panic button system for schools called Rave Panic Button. Less than a week after the mobile application had gone live, a 10-year old girl experienced head trauma during a seizure and required immediate medical attention. A staff member at the school activated the medical emergency button in the Rave Panic Button app, immediately connecting the individual to 911 while simultaneously notifying the school nurse and administrators of the incident. The young girl was then rushed by helicopter to a nearby hospital for treatment. According to the Elkmont High School Principal Bill Tribble, the app reduced the response time by minutes and enabled doctors to treat the student with the medical care she needed as quickly as possible.
Since last year, over two dozen school violence and student safety emergencies have been mitigated through the app. In many cases, medical attention was needed immediately to assist in incidents of head trauma, unresponsive children, and allergic reactions. In these emergencies, every minute saved during response proved lifesaving for these children.
Athens-Limestone 911 Center Director, Brandon Wallace, recognizes the challenges of school safety, which is why he sought to bring a panic button system for schools to his community. “Many of our school campuses are large, with multiple entrances, parking lots, and athletic fields,” said Wallace, “this can make it difficult for first responders to know where to go when they arrive on the scene of an emergency.” Before the app, Wallace noted the difficult nature of communication between responding agencies and school officials. “Before the app was implemented, emergency officials would have to make individual calls to school administrators, campus safety officers, the superintendent, and many others during an incident. We would then have to repeat this process every time there was new information to ensure all stakeholders were updated - it was extremely inefficient.” Now disseminating information is much easier, with updates reaching all stakeholders simultaneously, something Wallace describes as “invaluable”.
SNOPAC 9-1-1 Reinvents Panic Button to Locate Missing Child
Snohomish County, Washington
Concerned about the increasing violence in schools around the country, SNOPAC 9-1-1 Emergency Communication sought to implement a panic button system for schools to increase the speed of notifications and emergency response, and most importantly, keep their students safe.
After selecting the Rave Panic Button app, SNOPAC 9-1-1 "accidentally" discovered a use for the app that even the application developers from Rave Mobile Safety hadn't initially anticipated: locating missing children.
Back in March of last year, an employee of the Snohomish County Public Schools District used Rave Panic Button to immediately contact 9-1-1 to report a missing student. This app activation simultaneously notified all teachers, staff, and school resource officers to issue a missing student alert and included a description of the missing child, key details about the incident, and the originator's location. According to the FBI, the first three hours are critical to finding a child safe. The ability for school personnel to react rapidly and to communicate effectively with each other and first responders is absolutely critical. Shortly after the notification was delivered, the child was found safe with a family member.
By speeding up the time it takes to report a child missing and communicate their physical description, Snohomish County school officials quickly realized the power of implementing a panic button system for schools app -- especially one with features that improve missing child procedures and response protocol.
School Violence and Safety: Challenges and Solutions
In response to the problem of school violence, a number of states formed legislative committees tasked with identifying mechanisms to respond quicker and more effectively when an incident does occur. Key themes from these groups’ work revolve around:
1. Better communication with public safety
2. Ability to identify a threat
3. Call for help as quickly as possible
According to the Rand Corporation’s 2016 report, school safety experts stressed that staff members needed easier and faster access to information, possibly through all-in-one software applications, in order to prevent, reduce, and respond to the entire spectrum of school violence. The panic button system for schools used during the emergency situations in Marion County, Snohomish County, and Limestone County was designed to support this level of rapid communication while providing more information to school staff and first responders. The result of this design is a proven solution that protects school communities in the face of violence and other emergency situations.
Rave Mobile Safety CEO Todd Piett argues that safety protocol and emergency technology needs to support rapid response and plan for the horrific possibility of active assailant incidents, but it also needs to support effective and rapid communication for non-assailant type emergencies such as medical emergencies.
School violence can manifest in many different forms. Public safety officials and school administrators need to come together to leverage solutions that work to protect students against school violence - this partnership is non-negotiable. While safety procedures will be unique to each individual school campus and their needs, access to open communication and rapid emergency response should be a common priority.