Best Practices: Communications Teamwork

There are many aspects to a school safety plan. A very important component of that plan is crisis communications. There are various existing safety technologies in the schools and they are fortunate to have them (e.g. cameras, automated door locks/restricted access, alarms, etc.), but without communications, the above tools are not as effective as they could be.

In the event of a fire, regardless of the alarms, sprinklers, flashing lights, and evacuation plan, staff at the school will be much more effective at controlling the situation if they are able to communicate with each other.

Landline phones in classrooms, public address systems or intercoms, and even cell phones all aid in the response to a crisis event. But what happens if there isn’t access to the above? Cell phone towers become overloaded during a large emergency making them ineffective. Licensed two-way radios use radio frequencies and will work when other methods of communication fail or cannot be accessed.

In order to best utilize two-way radios effectively during a crisis, radio users must undergo training to properly communicate with first responders. The ability to connect with public safety or other organizations  via two-way radios, also known as interoperability, is paramount to school safety. We have found that training the leaders of a school, or the school safety team, how to best speak on their two-way radio enables the other safety equipment technologies in the school to be most useful.

When discussing  interoperability, the most understandable parallel is “communications teamwork.” The leaders or school safety team  is best suited to work with school-aged children. The leaders or public safety first responders are best suited to responding to emergencies. Through teamwork, school leaders can describe to first responders the location of an incident, the best door to access that location, if all students have been counted or if there are several still in the building and when the buses will arrive to take the students off-campus. Public safety, in turn, can help guide school personnel who carry radios to get the students to safety as quickly as possible. Through this teamwork, community partnerships are built and open the door to discussions about safety best practices throughout your school district and community.

Even with the state-of-the-art safety technologies in a school or throughout a district, the ability to communicate with each other at the school and with first responders who will help resolve a crisis is a vital aspect of any safety plan.

Take Pueblo School District 70 as an example; Pueblo is one of the largest geographical school districts in Colorado, with a heavy focus on school safety. The district started with very few safety technologies. The first step to improve their safety measures was recognizing the importance of communications throughout the schools. Stakeholders across the district saw that there was a need for effective two-way radio use, as well as “communications interoperability” with first responders in the area. District 70 has been a school safety pioneer not only in Colorado, but throughout the country.

Learn more about their progress with communications teamwork in Colorado.

SchoolSAFE Best Practices and Community Partnerships

At SchoolSAFE, we get many questions about school safety, best practices, and how to make communities more savvy in how they prepare for emergencies. We recently received several great inquiries about school safety practices from SchoolSAFE users, including: how do school districts handle preventative maintenance for emergencies? And, are first responders and school districts required to participate in trainings together to become SchoolSAFE Certified Ready?

Every school district is unique in their planning and execution of safety practices. One of our best examples of preparation and proactivity is in Pueblo, Colorado. The school district started by discussing various all-hazards scenarios at each school and referred to the district’s crisis plans to effectively respond. By doing so, administrators, teachers, and local public safety agencies were able to discover, mold, and develop best practices for teamwork day-to-day and during emergencies. They later learned that their ultimate tool for effective teamwork is the two-way radio in the schools. It enables each school to connect directly with professional responders and district personnel, putting everyone on a reliable, common channel to expedite the response.

First responders came to the table and provided their input on how the school could improve their response. They focused on the initial trigger to the incident – (lock down, lock out, evacuate or shelter), how and when the schools call 9-1-1, and how to evaluate a situation and share information “in real time.” Through the SchoolSAFE Certified Ready Schools Program by Motorola Solutions, relationships between school personnel and first responders flourished. The program required teamwork and training for all entities involved, FCC licensed radios, the SchoolSAFE physical network that bridges the channels together, tactical interoperable communications exercises, and continuing education throughout the partnership.

We have seen that decision-makers in both the school district and public safety grasp the importance of working together to create the most effective and timely response.

Do your students and community a favor, and share this information with your school or district. We need to work together to help fund and implement the technologies and procedures that enable teamwork among school and district-based responders as well as professional public safety responders. We are here to help your community discuss, plan, and implement your next steps. We appreciate educators and first responders for all that they do and for reaching out to us on this very important subject. -SSC

Contact us to learn more about how you can bring SchoolSAFE to your district.

 

Funding and Grant Assistance in the Education Vertical

Finding money for technology and solutions can be a bit of a head-scratcher. How can you help financially support a proposal? Do you have money in the budget? No? Ok, then grants? What grants are available? None?

In funding the various SchoolSAFE implementations throughout the country, we’ve had to be rather resourceful. SchoolSAFE enhances community partnerships by providing an interoperability solution for schools, the district, and public safety. One district was able to raise money for SchoolSAFE with fundraisers. Another followed a cost share model, asking each participating entity to fund a small piece of the total proposal instead of relying on one entity to pay for the entire project.

Another customer found funds through the E-911 Authority Board, as SchoolSAFE is a tool for dispatchers and communications centers.

But when those options don’t work, how else can you find money? We recently learned that Praetorian Digital has an Education Grant Help division, a new group focused solely on finding and assisting customers with the grant process. Not only do they actively seek out available grants through various platforms (government grants, corporate grants, private entity grants, for example), they will review grants in the writing process and provide invaluable input.
The success rate is impressive, too. Currently, 18% of applications are successful. With the Education Grant Help’s assistance, that number jumps to 40%. Their knowledgeable writers also apply for multiple grants for a project, improving the odds of receiving funding.
We are extremely excited about working with this group. With their expertise and guidance, we will be able to help our customers find the monies needed to improve their radio communications between schools and first responders. -SSC

For more information, check out their website: http://educationgrantshelp.com/products/communications/

You can also contact us for more information.

 

 

The Briefings at Columbine: SchoolSAFE Panel

The Briefings, A National School Safety Symposium at Columbine High School, invited SchoolSAFE Communications to present on the importance of direct communication between schools and first responders.

The symposium was hosted by the I Love U Guys Foundation, a non-profit created to “restore and protect the joy of youth through educational programs and positive actions in collaboration with families, schools, communities, organizations and government entities.”

SchoolSAFE’s presentation featured a perspective on radio communications from a district safety director, sheriff’s office bureau chief, and a boots on the ground responder.

Mike Coleman, with SchoolSAFE, discussed the importance of two-way radio communication and provided information on the difference with and without real time radio communication between schools and first responders.

Tim Moore, a Bureau Chief at Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, walked through the time saved during the riveting re-enactment of a bomb scare event in a Douglas County School and the bettered outcome with SchoolSAFE.

Greg Keasling, the Director of Student Services at Pueblo District 70, discussed how he has integrated the importance of communication in his district and how it has changed the culture within the schools. He emphasized the importance of full-scale exercises that include multiple agencies, school personnel, and students, as well as the value of the lessons they learn after each exercise.

Micah Richardson, the Director of Safety and Response at Southeast Christian Church and School in Colorado, as well as a former EMT, discussed the “Response Window,” who is involved, the relationships needed, and the valuable information that is shared prior to entering the emergency situation.

The Briefings, an annual and week-long event, features nationally recognized speakers and experts on school safety and , “examines lessons learned from traumatic events and reveals new preemptive school safety measures.” Attendees included school safety team members, administrators, first responders, victims’ advocates, and volunteers. -SSC

To learn more about the I Love U Guys Foundation, click here

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