By Andrea Lebron - January 30, 2020
A school panic button app system is a communication system for schools designed to improve the outcome of emergencies by enabling faster responses and more effective school emergency communication between schools, staff, 9-1-1 call dispatchers, and incident managers.
In an emergency, time matters. The chances of person surviving a heart attack decreases by 7-10 percent for every minute CPR is not administered, the majority of active assailant events are over within ten minutes, and fires can engulf whole buildings even quicker.
In most emergency scenarios, the amount of time it takes to report and respond to an emergency can mean the difference between life and death. For this reason, all schools should have effective school emergency notification systems designed to accelerate internal and emergency response.
An effective school emergency notification system is one that can be activated quickly by authorized personnel from any location, and which simultaneously alerts staff, district administrators, and 9-1-1 call dispatchers to the location and the nature of the emergency without time-consuming telephone conversations or other processes delaying an emergency response.
Wall-mounted and desk-mounted physical panic buttons don't fulfill this criteria as they are not always accessible when an emergency occurs (for example, a medical emergency on a school playing field), nor do they inform all parties simultaneously about the nature of an emergency. Furthermore, during active assailant events, staff may have to place themselves in danger to activate a physical panic button.
Bluetooth-enabled wearable panic buttons can also be ineffective as an emergency notification system for schools if an authorized user is out of range of the base console when an emergency occurs; while GPS-enabled wearables consume considerable battery power. There are also issues with authorized users forgetting to wear them or - in the case of GPS-enabled wearables - keeping them charged.
For these reasons, the most effective type of emergency notification system for schools is a panic button app system. With this type of school emergency alert system, apps are downloaded onto authorized users' mobile devices - which most people rarely forget to carry with them or keep charged - and the apps connect each authorized user with the emergency school alert system and 9-1-1 dispatch center.
When an emergency occurs, the app provides a choice of emergency options (medical, fire, active assailant, etc.) and a non-emergency option for staff assistance. The authorized user selects the appropriate option and taps the screen. The nature and location of the emergency is immediately and simultaneously sent to 9-1-1 and to staff in order to initiate lockdown or evacuation procedures.
There are multiple use cases for a school panic button app system covering practically every type of school emergency. The following examples illustrate some of the benefits of a school panic button app system and how emergency communication apps can accelerate internal and emergency responses in order to produce better outcomes.
ACTIVE ASSAILANT: Active assailant events are far too common in today’s school environments. During an active assailant event, only between 30-50 percent of the time does law enforcement arrive while the assailant is still active. However, by reducing the time it takes to report an event to other staff and 9-1-1 call dispatchers, the assailant naturally has a smaller window to kill and inflict injury.
The sooner the school lockdown alert system is activated, the faster lockdown procedures can begin. The use of emergency communication apps during an active assailant event also creates a critical communication bridge between the initial reporter, other onsite staff, and incident managers not only to accelerate emergency response but also to increase situational awareness during the event.
MEDICAL: App-enabled panic button systems can be lifesaving during a critical medical emergency that requires immediate assistance such as a heart attack, lethal allergy, or critical injury. By leveraging a school panic button app in such situations, staff can simultaneously notify 9-1-1 call dispatchers, district administrators, and onsite employees with medical experience from their mobile device.
One example of this is out of Benton, AR where a student-athlete collapsed on the baseball field due to a heart attack. The head athletic trainer, TJ White, received a call reporting a student was down and barely breathing. The coach on the scene activated the school panic button system, which alerted all medically trained onsite staff and 9-1-1 call dispatchers immediately and simultaneously. By the time White reached the field just moments after receiving the call, multiple coaches were already performing CPR on the student and first responders were arriving at the scene.
FIRE: From the time a fire starts, it can take minutes for thick black smoke to fill the air and a building to become completely engulfed in flames. Every second in a fire emergency is critical to the safety of everyone inside and in nearby buildings. For example, if a fire erupts in the student chemical lab or in the cafeteria, the staff member who witnesses the incident can leverage a school panic button system to accelerate the evacuation process and reduce the time it takes for local firefighters to reach the scene.
School emergency communication apps can also be used to keep staff and district administrators up-to-date with developing threats such as wildfires. Whereas, when a wildfire starts, the initial instruction may be to shelter in place, the school emergency alert system can subsequently be used to order an evacuation if a wildfire changes direction and moves closer to the school.
CRITICAL REPORT: General 9-1-1 calls can be placed through a school panic button app system in situations where a staff member needs to report a missing student, violence against teachers or other students, potential weapons on campus, or if a student brings to school illegal substances such as drugs or alcohol to school.
In one case, an elementary student in Albuquerque, NM, mistakenly brought pot-infused gummy bears to school and shared them with her classmates. Some of the students reportedly got sick while others showed signs of the “giggles”. With a panic button system at their disposal, school teachers who find themselves in this situation can act quickly by getting the students the medical attention needed, and reduce the likelihood of rumors through fast, accurate communication.
NON-EMERGENCY: Effective communication even during non-emergency situations is important. A non-emergency incident, such as a minor injury during recess that requires aid administered by the school nurse, does not require an immediate response from 9-1-1 and first responders. Similarly an app-based school notification systems can be used to inform staff of local travel disruptions that may prevent them or their students arriving for class on time.
The industry standard panic button app system being used in 2,000 K-12 schools across the U.S. is the Rave Panic Button. Every day the Rave Panic Button app system is used to protect students and staff members as well as improve district administration strategies for managing emergency and non-emergency situations effectively. Below are features of the school panic button app system that further enhances the effectiveness of our emergency communication systems for schools:
HEIGHTENED SITUATIONAL AWARENESS: Your school alert system should give you increased control, management, and visibility into any emergency that occurs in your school facility the moment it happens.
For instance, Rave Panic Button has an incident control and response dashboard that enables incident managers and district administrators to log in remotely or within the school whenever they receive a panic button activation message. The key benefit to accessing this dashboard is the ability to monitor the emergency situation and help coordinate school resources, even from afar.
Another use case for the incident control and response dashboard is the ability for an authorized user to message instructions to staff, whether proactively or in response to an incident. For example, a school principal can log into the dashboard and send a message to all staff instructing them to hold their students back when the lunch bell rings due to a temporary medical emergency in a hallway.
Another possible scenario is if a School Resource Officer needs to send a mass notification instructing onsite staff to implement a soft lockdown because of a nearby threat (i.e. law enforcement in pursuit of an armed fugitive) or because of an unidentified intruder on campus. In this scenario, activating the school lockdown alert system to notify 9-1-1 call dispatchers might be unnecessary.
INSTANT NOTIFICATION: During a critical panic button activation (e.g. reports of an active assailant or fire), 9-1-1 responders and all on-site staff should be able to receive an instant notification with key details about the emergency type and location. Furthermore, as students learn of the incident, social media instantly makes any school incident or emergency public knowledge. Scholl district administrators can use the school emergency notification system to combat rumors and suppositions with fast, accurate information.
INTERNAL NON-EMERGENCY COMMUNICATION: The app-enabled mass notification system for schools should empower your staff members to manage non-emergency situations effectively by internally communicating an incident quickly and to only the necessary people. An example of this would be if computer systems were undoing an update and the IT Department wanted to ensure users were logged out of the system before initiating the update.
ENHANCED COORDINATION AND RESPONSE: A great feature to look for in a school panic button app is its ability to integrate with an emergency response-enhancing system designed for your local 9-1-1 centers. Some tools provide seamless integration that allows critical facility data and information to be delivered to first responders during an emergency – such as detailed caller location, floor plans, emergency exit and entry points, and key emergency contacts.
LOCATION-BASED ALERTING: Through your school panic button app system, you should be able to identify and label the boundaries of all school buildings and outdoor spaces to ensure accurate location data is delivered to 9-1-1 during an emergency.
Consider all of these options as you look to replace your existing school alert system or are researching a new app-based school panic button system to implement at your school.
Andrea is Rave's Director of Digital Marketing, a master brainstormer and avid coffee drinker. Andrea joined Rave in August 2017, after 10 years of proposal and corporate marketing at an environmental engineering firm. You'll find her working with her amazing team in writing and producing blogs like this one, improving your journey to and through our website, and serving you up the best email content. When she's not in front of a keyboard, she's chasing after her three daughters or indulging in her husband's latest recipe. Andrea has a Bachelor's degree in Marketing/Management from Northeastern University and an MBA from Curry College.
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