Evaluating and Integrating Emergency Notification Systems Technology into Educational Environments
There are several educational institutions around the United States that have on-premise based security personnel, or at least one individual that is in charge of emergency notification systems, disaster planning, and security. In all instances, it is important for these personnel to manage the events that occur during a critical emergency situation. Establishing expedited communication with emergency personnel and responders is essential. The question is,
“What can be done to streamline and link the communication(s) that occur between internal and external stakeholders?” To address this challenge, many telephone and software application vendors are using advanced technology to offer emergency notification solutions that can be put into place to address safety and security concerns in multiple buildings at educational institutions.
- How would you know if your school was in a tornado watch/warning?
- How would you know if there is an active shooter on campus?
- How would you know if someone down the hall or in another building dialed 911, but it was then disconnected before communication could be established? How could you help them?
As a technology director for a rural private 9-12 boarding school in the Midwest, specifically Nebraska, I have learned that it is important to be aware of weather based emergencies, natural disasters, and security risks and vulnerabilities that may exist. Resiliency and reactionary-based planning activities are essential to maintaining a safe and secure environment. Further, managing these events in an organized fashion through the use of interactive software is incalculable, and has proven to be successful in hundreds of schools and universities across the domestic United States and around the globe. Implementing an emergency notification solution can allow a certain group of individuals or everyone to know what is going on across campus, or in the same building. The software that is currently on the market allows staff, faculty, students, and others to be notified via landline telephone, cell phone, text message, email, through an “app,” etc. when an emergency is happening—in real time. Also, these messages can be customized and offered in a video, voice, or text-based format. Additionally, these applications can also be integrated into overhead paging systems as well.
When researching the different types of emergency notification systems technology available, it is important to identify those that have been successful in the educational sector. There are several applications on the market that are tailored towards medical facilities, retirement homes, factories, etc, and they are not the right choice.
Below are a few key benefits and best practices when considering emergency notification systems vendor and/or a software application for emergency notification systems in educational environments:
- Acquire software that permits “customized” notifications and “codes.”
- Research software that has a simple and easy to use interface for simplicity purposes.
- It is important to use multi-level notifications that help improve response from internal and external agencies and responders.
- Procure software that adapts to “911” by default in the domestic United States, or “112” for Europe, etc.
- It is imperative to use a built-in real-time instant messaging system should be in place for those notified to be able to communicate via text, voice, and video.
- Applications that allow built-in features to immediately cancel a “911” call before it reaches dispatch or before responders reach your location.
- Accessing an easy to use reporting database that tracks each emergency call, notification, event, phone call, etc. is important when needing to access data quickly. It also provides a foundation when training staff on emergency preparedness.
- Purchase software that can run on computers, tablets, smartphones, cellular phones, desk phones, etc.
- Attain software that communicates a time stamp, date, phone extension, location, name, etc.
- In active shooter situations, it is imperative to use software that can be communicated silently, and allows the end user to click on an “acknowledge” prompt when notified.
In sum, many of the best practices discussed in this article can be adapted to rural, urban, public, and private educational institutions across the globe. When planning for possible disaster and emergency events, one has to look at both the physical and personnel assets that must be protected. Implementing emergency notification systems technology can save lives!
Guest Author: Dr. Thomas Rzemyk, Ed.D., CHPP
Dr. Rzemyk’s background and experience spans the fields of criminal justice, homeland security, security management, international security, cyber security, information security, and counter-terrorism. His specific research interests are in advancing evidence-based approaches to reduce school violence, terrorism, active shooter scenarios, etc. through effective and efficient reactionary and resiliency based planning. He also has also completed academic presentation, papers, and book chapters on post-war nation reconstruction and rebuilding, leadership, K-12 school security and security, and volunteer-based mentorship programs to decrease active shooter violence in public and private education. Dr. Rzemyk is considered to be a leading expert and counter-terrorism educator/instructor, researcher, peer-reviewer, writer, and author. He has been an asset to several educational institutions by teaching, developing courses, contributing to faculty conferences, and teaching thousands of undergraduate and graduate students during his tenure. Thomas has a passion for higher education and firmly believes that everyone is entitled to a college education.
Dr. Rzemyk holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Healthcare Administration from Bellevue University, a Master of Science in Security Management & Criminal Justice from Bellevue University, and a Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) in Higher Education Leadership from Northcentral University. Further, Thomas also holds the Certified Homeland Security Professional (CHPP) designation from the National Domestic Preparedness Coalition and the Global Center for Threat, Risk, and Vulnerability. He is also a graduate of the United States Air Force Security Forces Police Academy, where he served as a military police officer for a number of years in the USAF. In addition to teaching, Dr. Rzemyk is also an ad-hoc peer reviewer for the Office of Justice Programs (OJP) under the United States Department of Justice. He is also a Peer Reviewer for the Thomas Cooley Law Review at Western Michigan University. In regards to community service, he also serves as a disaster volunteer for the American Red Cross. In May of 2015 Dr. Rzemyk was selected as a Criminology Discipline Reviewer by the Department of State to participate in the 2016-2017 Fulbright Scholar Program.
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