How to Automate Your Emergency Response Plans

By Mike Glowinski

Quick: When was the last time your school practiced its emergency response plan? Was it prior to the onset of COVID-19?

Off the top of your head, can you name the person responsible for planning drills and tabletop exercises? Who is in charge of broadcasting announcements and updates during an emergency?

Do you know which situations call for an evacuation vs. a lockdown or shelter-in-place response? Have you run through all the possible scenarios that might require communication during a crisis?

Now imagine trying to answer these questions in the midst of an emergency: severe weather, a bomb threat, a gas leak, a health crisis, or an intruder inside the building. These scenarios are enough to put any teacher or administrator on edge.

Studies show that, when you’re placed under stress, it can be difficult to recall specific facts or concepts. Not being able to recall this important information in an emergency could positively or negatively influence the outcome.

Crisis communications technology gives schools the opportunity to be proactive in emergency management efforts by pre-recording critical notifications that support immediate and customized responses to a wide range of emergencies.

Putting Response on Autopilot

Automated responses and notifications can make sure the right messages and information are conveyed to appropriate contacts in real time. Technology allows you to “pre-plan” for emergencies so you can calmly and thoroughly think through all possible scenarios, determine the best course of action, and then put procedures in place ahead of time. (For example: The instructions shared across a building will be much different for a winter storm vs. a wildfire headed your way.) When an event occurs, automation allows your plan to unfold without needing time, energy, or attention from people experiencing the emergency.

It all starts with the press of a button on a phone or tablet, on a computer, or from somewhere in the school building (a classroom, the main office, the library, etc.). Activating this button launches a sequence of predetermined, automated, step-by-step procedures that guide everyone through an emergency while necessary actions are taken behind the scenes to ensure safety. Depending on what’s happening, these could include:

  • Automatically locking or unlocking doors
  • Sending notifications to mobile devices and computers
  • Alerting parents
  • Displaying room status lights
  • Playing prerecorded audio instructions
  • Notifying first responders and/or the district office

Using Existing Paging Systems

Some of the most reliable forms of communication available, many existing paging systems can be upgraded to share automated notifications.

In the event of an emergency that extends beyond the school (a natural disaster, for example), cellular networks may become overwhelmed by too much traffic. (That happened here this past summer when Iowa experienced a derecho. Cellular networks were down for days in some cases.) Paging and intercom systems can share messages and updates even when cellular networks are bogged down.

Today, it’s possible to integrate audio and visual alerting with room status indicators, digital message boards, IP-addressable speakers in classrooms, overhead paging, and two-way communication among staff, safety resource officers, and emergency personnel.

An investment in crisis communications can improve daily communications, too. When these systems aren’t being used for emergency management and notification, they can be used for event management (class changes, holidays, daylight savings, etc.) and everyday operations (daily announcements, calls for assistance, etc.).

Right now, CEC is offering strategic security assessments. We’ll visit your site or schedule a call, analyze the technology and systems you have in place, and demonstrate how these systems could be integrated with an intercom system to improve safety and communication. Request more information here!

CEC is proud to partner with Rauland to customize notification systems and technology that keep schools informed, connected, and secure. With simple and targeted live communications, Rauland’s Telecenter U manages everything from paging, intercom, bells and locks to keep each school day running smoothly. Learn more here.

Mike Glowinski is CEC’s executive director of sales for state, local, and education government agencies. He helps educators and government agencies find the right IT, AV, and fire/security solutions.


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