What Does Public Safety Grade Mean For School Safety Technologies?

Picture of Scott McGrath By Scott McGrath

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A PUBLIC SAFETY GRADEIn an era where school security concerns are at an all-time high, a comprehensive safety plan that is innovative and reliable is essential. During an emergency, it’s critical for safety managers to be able to communicate with teachers and staff, without network timeouts or interruptions. A mass notification system has become a key medium for safety managers, allowing administrators to quickly reach the community via text, email, voice message, Web EOC, digital signage, and more. For a mass notification system to achieve strong public safety grade, it needs an infrastructure that ensures communication failures never occur.

A “public safety grade” refers to the expectation of safety managers and emergency first response providers that equipment will remain operational during a natural disaster, attack, or any other emergency situation, according to the National Public Safety Telecommunications Council. The term can also include performance specifications, definitions, and the best practices needed to maintain public safety operations during an emergency. In order to secure a strong public safety grade, emergency professionals often focus on network hardening and sustainability. 

Scott McGrath, a Public Safety Solutions Architect at Rave Mobile Safety, speaks to how public safety grade relates to school safety technology specifically, emphasizing the importance of building a strong public safety infrastructure .

Related Blog: How Technology Can Support Statewide School Safety Initiatives 

The Importance Of Public Safety Grade Infrastructure 

When it comes to school safety technology, including mass notification systems, a public safety grade is critical. By providing the behind-the-scenes infrastructure, a system with a strong public safety grade will not only rely on a single network, but rather multiple sources, such as a major phone provider carrier and public safety network. This ensures connection will never fail during an emergency situation. 

For Rave Mobile Safety, public safety grade infrastructure is the backbone of all our public safety products, cooperative integrations, and our reputation for support and service. The infrastructure supports the entire safety platform, allowing the system to perform millions of transactions each day, and was built up and bolstered over a decade of providing safety solutions to communities across the United States. Any app or safety tool can be built quickly, but the underlying architecture to support public safety grade availability, reliability, and security during an emergency takes time and real-world experience. 

It’s also critical that public safety infrastructure is built with trust in mind. Administrators are entrusting the safety of the school community in their safety tools without the worry that their privacy will be compromised just to ensure a product has a high public safety grade. Rave Mobile Safety has collaborated with customers across industries to meet evolving privacy challenges over the last 15 years, and that security experience is part of the structuring of our apps and integrations. 

High Availability and the "Five Nine" Commitment

Availability is the first piece of a public safety grade as service must be running and available to administrators at all times. When choosing a mass notification system provider, administrators should make sure the system has “five-nine” capability, which means a 99.999% availability commitment, ensuring the service is available to administrators when the system is needed. 

Geographic redundancy is an important component of this service promise, as sourcing through different data centers ensures service won't fail. If service from one data center is down, operations move to another center. Rave Mobile Safety operates through our servers, databases, and applications, but also invests in redundancy through aggregated networks. If a message isn’t able to reach a user, it will failover to another network to get the message out, without compromising delivery time. Multiple modes of delivery also provide this redundancy for the administrator, who can communicate through multiple channels, such as social media to digital signage systems. 

Related Blog: 4 Must-Haves To Look for in a School Alert App

Rave Mobile Safety maintains geographically separate collocation facilities. Our two main application tier data centers are SSAE-16 SOC2-compliant centers. Each facility has redundant power and network uplinks. Within each collocation facility, all machines, firewalls, and switches are redundant, with each set plugged into separate power distribution units. Each server is connected to both network uplinks utilizing Ethernet bonding, and data is replicated between the two collocation facilities using database replication.

Our public safety grade infrastructure creates fault tolerance, whic means all cloud-based functionality continues and remains available even when the user's device may be experiencing connectivity issues. Therefore, our school safety technology, whether panic button app or a campus safety app will remain functional, even if the user’s phone is having connectivity issues.

The systems above are the pieces of the puzzle that collect to provide a hardy, high-availability, high-performance infrastructure. The Rave Mobile Safety system sent over a billion messages in 2018, a number which will likely increase in 2019. In order to support high-transaction volume capability, and keep the system performing, all the technology strategies and security infrastructure, combine into a platform that has many ways to handle any things which may go wrong.

It’s not about having a nice looking mobile app, a reliable mobile app with infrastructure performance, reliability, availability, behind-the-scenes infrastructure makes it work when you need it. A panic button app can also be a critical tool for schools, and it’s essential to prioritize public safety grade when considering mobile app safety technology. Instead of relying simply on mobile apps, and what they do, it’s got the added heft of a true infrastructure in the background that makes the system work. It’s about the fact that the app will be there, working, all of the time. It’s a matter of hardiness and reliability- anybody can put an app together, but the service components that make it a safety system are much deeper than that. 

Panic Button App will still provide real-time communications with local law enforcement and first responders, even during seeming phone network timeouts, due to the public safety grade infrastructure. The same is true for the Rave Guardian app. If a student sets a safety timer while traveling on campus, the app’s ability to inform their guardian won’t be compromised by network timeouts or failures. While cell phone service will be required for voice call access to emergency networks, but in the absence of the ability to call, various features of the Rave Guardian application will continue to operate under WiFi-based connectivity or in areas where data services are available. 

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Scott McGrath

Written by Scott McGrath

Scott McGrath is Public Safety Solutions Architect and has served in several roles at Rave for over 10 years. Scott works with customers directly as a client resource and solutions architect to ensure that our products are optimized for the specific needs of our customers and focused on best practices - before, during and after onboarding. Scott also works with Rave's Customer Success team on training tools, including Rave Academy online learning management system courseware, live trainings by webinars, and on-site with customers. Scott has 29 years of experience in web, education, and safety high technology, and has worked at Sun Microsystems, Educational Testing Service, Ziff-Davis Communications, AT&T, and Percussion Software as a technology specialist and product manager. On the personal side, he's got abiding hobbyist compulsions for tech gadgetry (computers, headphones, mobile tech), music as both a listener and a player, and a notorious obsession with cows that defies explanation.

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