By Todd Miller - July 25, 2019
Four minutes. Two minutes. Three minutes. These numbers represent the amount of time that passed between the point that school shooters in Newtown, Parkland, and the Highlands STEM School in Colorado entered the building to the point where the first victims were hit by gunfire. The key takeaway from every After-Action Report (AAR) issued in the aftermath of these school shootings was that during an active shooter event, teachers and staff must react immediately and decisively to protect themselves and their students.
The shooting in Newtown ended when the gunman committed suicide as police closed in. In Parkland, the alleged shooter was able to escape in the chaos that ensued, while police in Colorado apprehended the suspects in the Highlands STEM incident. The common thread found in these tragedies is the rapid succession of events, and the need to notify those on site about the threat quickly. Sandy Hook Elementary School Principal Dawn Hochsprung activated the school’s PA system to alert others to the danger. Her actions are credited with saving lives and underscores the need for immediate on-site notification whenever there is an emergency.
Data provided by the FBI Studies of Active Shooter Incidents in the United States show that most active shooter incidents conclude prior to the arrival of police, and although most incidents last five minutes or less, a person is injured or killed every fifteen seconds that a shooter has unimpeded access to a building.
Taking these factors into consideration, it is abundantly clear that the initial response to an incident – the first sixty seconds – are critical in minimizing loss of life, maximizing the ability of those in the building to protect themselves and their classrooms, and ensuring that teachers and administrators are quickly made aware of what is happening. Training for these events is essential and creating comprehensive emergency response plans that are refined over time to integrate best practices will go a long way toward preparing educators for the possibility that their school is the scene of the next tragedy.
Training and planning are only as effective as the tools we leverage during real emergencies. In the wake of these tragedies, new technology has been developed to expedite emergency communications, and when implemented, these innovations can prove lifesaving in situations where seconds count. With such a short period of time between the start and end of these tragic events, internal communication is critical, as is getting information to 9-1-1 as quickly as possible.
Choosing the right technology for school shootings and other critical incidents is not easy. You have so many options to consider, from tools that harden your school such as bullet-proof doors to school emergency notification systems to even reunification applications that work way after an incident has occurred. And in many cases, there isn't just one tool that can do it all. Many schools are having to combine tools to create an interoperable network of security systems that communicate with each other before, during and after an incident.
But what truly makes or breaks these critical incidents is fast response and clear communication. When an incident occurs, the only time you'll have is to notify 9-1-1 and other staff and administrators so that everyone can immediately begin lockdown procedures or other safety procedures as necessary. Technology can help streamline that process, but only certain tools can put the right players in place and most importantly, communicate back to school staff when the "All Clear" signal is given by the appropriate authorities.
A panic button app can take these critical steps and merge them into a single action. When pressed, a call to 9-1-1 is placed, allowing the initial reporter to relay critical information about the location of the shooter, a description of the person and the weapons they have, and any other pertinent details that may be useful to first responders.
At the same time, a notification is sent to teachers, staff, and administrators that provides information including the type of emergency underway, the identity of the person reporting the emergency, as well as instructions on how to respond. This allows for a rapid internal response while simultaneously providing information to public safety that can be used to respond to and end the incident quickly.
Leveraging a panic button app versus a traditional physical panic button has distinct advantages when it comes to decreasing response time. A physical panic button, which are often placed under a desk or on a keychain, will be routed through an alarm company before reaching 9-1-1. In addition, the tool has no capability to provide location data, so first responders will not have information on the location of the intruder on campus. Both of these factors further compromise safety in a situation where time is absolutely critical.
There are few scenarios that affect our communities the way that school shootings and violence against our children does. We must remain vigilant and prepare for the worst-case scenario – an unfortunate but necessary reality of the world we live in. Be sure to choose school safety technology such as a panic button app with a proven record of improving emergency communications in K-12 schools and decreasing first response time.
Todd Miller manages all field operations at Rave. Prior to joining Rave, Todd managed the self-service consulting Practice at Oracle where he was responsible for the delivery of customized software solutions for clients in North America, supporting millions of users. At Oracle he was awarded recognition as a member of Oracle’s top 10% in Consulting. Todd’s previous experience includes leading consulting teams for Siebel and edocs in North America, Europe, and Australia. Todd is a graduate of Babson College.
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