Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Connecting the People on the Scene of an Emergency at Your School


The following is a guest post by Erik Endress.

In the days following December 14th, 2012 school administrators, educators, law enforcement personnel and parents have undertaken the most comprehensive look at school safety since the Columbine massacre of 1999. While much of that discussion has focused on preventing a Newtown-style active shooter from making entry to a building, history shows that the majority of active shooters appear from the inside of the school, in the form of a student, staff member or parent who has unfettered access to the building.


I do not believe that we can prevent active shooters, intent on doing harm at our schools, from carrying out their plans whether they emerge from the population already inside the building or arrive on school grounds unannounced as happened in Newtown.  Anyone with access to the building can carry an arsenal of weapons or explosives into the school and unleash an attack from inside.

Where I believe there is room for improvement is the ability to connect administrators, educators, employees and local first responders on the scene of an emergency at a school or on a campus. After all, educators and students are using technology to connect with people around the world; shouldn’t they be able to connect to the teacher in the next classroom or the police officer who may save their life? I think so.

Think about what happens in your school today. How are lockdown or evacuation alerts communicated? In most schools, one or two people, usually administrators, are authorized to call a lockdown and they can only do that using the PA system in the main office, which is generally adjacent to the front doors.

Speaking at the New Jersey Association of School Administrators School Security Conference in March of 2013, former Newtown Superintendent Janet Robinson said that it was a school bus driver who called her secretary to report a shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School and she thought the report couldn't be true. "I said, 'it's impossible. It must be a domestic dispute in the area," the superintendent recalled. "I said, 'Call the school and see if it's close, see if we need to do a lockdown."

Why isn’t every employee able to call for a lockdown or evacuation if they see something dangerous? Perhaps the gym teacher is on the athletic field with students when he or she sees a suspicious person appear from the woods. Or a teacher in a classroom has a student pull a handgun from their backpack. In both instances, the time that can be saved communicating the alert can save lives – that’s why our system enables any administrator, employee or law enforcement officer to instantly broadcast an alert (lockdown, lockout, evacuate) from their own mobile device or a computer, to everyone involved. That alert is also sent instantly to your local law enforcement officers, who may be passing right by the school at that moment, reducing response time.

Once employees receive an alert, they connect with everyone on the scene by checking in to share their actual location inside or outside of the building, their status, headcount, a message and reporting missing or found students, in just seconds, using their own mobile device or a computer. Whether in the corner of their classroom, hidden in the closet or at the evacuation zone, every employee can connect to report their status and receive real-time information updates via text.

As employee check-ins are occurring, they are displayed in real-time on the SW911 LiveView dashboard. Responding police and fire personnel can connect instantly to see if anyone is reporting that they are being held hostage, near the threat or are trapped by fire or building debris, all high priority situations. This enables first responders to see where help is needed now, instead of searching the entire building or campus without any information.

School administrators can use SW911 to be instantly alerted to emergencies at their schools and can access the LiveView to monitor or manage incidents of any kind, from anywhere.

SW911 was used for the first time in New Jersey on January 8, 2013 and today, thousands of school employees and first responders are on the network. Schools can try the system for free for up to two months prior to switching to a paid model, which is just $3 per employee, per month.

For more information visit www.sharewith911.com or email Erik@sharewith911.com

Erik Endress is the CEO and Co-Founder of OnScene Technologies, Inc. which makes Share With 911. He has been a volunteer First Responder in his hometown of Ramsey, NJ for over 25 years and is a recipient of the New York City Mayoral Award for Heroism & Bravery. His experience as a First Responder, a former school board member and as an education technology specialist, Erik saw an opportunity to leverage the technology being used in schools and in the hands of First Responders to connect everyone involved during an emergency and let them share information with each other. 

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