LENAPE REGIONAL HIGH SCHOOL DISTRICT CASE STUDY
Lenape Regional High School District Upgrades Aging Phone System and Implements Cutting Edge Lockdown and Emergency Notification System to Increase School Safety with Help from Eastern DataComm.
About the Lenape Regional High School District
Lenape Regional High School District includes four large high schools and a behavioral school, receiving students from seven local districts.
Its high schools are very expansive, both in terms of their schools’ outdoor areas and the vast nature of the buildings themselves. In addition, the district’s athletic fields and parking lots are located at a distance from the school buildings, creating a critical need for coverage and notification over a large area in order to secure district grounds during emergencies.
To keep students and staff safe, the district had implemented an emergency response system prior to partnering with Eastern DataComm. However, that system actually put the school into lockdown erroneously on the first day of school, prompting concern about its effectiveness and ease of use.
In addition, the district became aware of new regulations regarding multi-line phone system emergency capabilities and reached out to Eastern DataComm to begin the process of addressing these challenges.
“We wanted a professional to come in and redo the whole system. When we began working with Eastern DataComm, we realized that our phone system was kind of antiquated. We had money from a grant. So, we had the ability to renew a phone system, which gave us the ability to put a school on a lockdown from our phones … from the classroom. That enhanced our ability to quickly and more rapidly put our schools into lockdown.”
– Jim Kehoe
Safety and Emergency Management Coordinator, Lenape Regional High School District
Upgrading Outdated Phone and PA Systems for Federal Compliance and Effective Communication
One of the key reasons the district reached out to the team at Eastern DataComm was a desire to upgrade their aging Avaya phone system. The district was experiencing problems with the system and planned to replace it in the near future. The prior telecommunications vendor had also implemented what they believed to be a workaround to bring the system into better compliance with recent federal regulations, but it didn’t work as needed.
When the district realized they could meet federal compliance requirements while integrating a newer multi-line phone system with their emergency notification system, they knew the time to make the switch to ensure more effective emergency communication was now and reached out to Eastern DataComm.
Eastern DataComm connected with Mr. Jim Keho, the Safety and Emergency Management Coordinator at Lenape Regional High School District, along with his colleagues. After consulting with key stakeholders and diagnosing the phone system issues, the decision was made to replace the district’s aging Avaya system with a Mitel phone system complete with robust features that allow for compliance with recent communications legislation. New cables and switches were installed by the Eastern DataComm team to support the state-of-the-art solution as well.
The new multi-line phone system brought the school into compliance with FCC regulations including Ray Baum’s Act and Kari’s Law, which require that such phone systems make it easier for first responders to better understand the logistics surrounding urgent situations and send resources to the proper locations. With the implementation of this new system, the school now has the ability to notify first responders of a lockdown-related event like an active shooter, provide a call-back number to emergency responders, and disclose the location from which a call was made to ensure proper allocation of resources—features the old phone system simply could not provide.
Addressing an Aging PA System
Another key challenge the district faced was how to make their PA system more effective, both day-to-day and in emergencies. The district had different PA systems in each school, some of which were made by companies that were no longer in operation, and therefore could not provide the necessary support. In addition, they were missing speakers in many locations, particularly on the outside of the buildings. Even in areas where there was coverage, some exterior speakers were not working properly. Announcements simply were not being projected far enough in many of the large outdoor areas. In consultation with Eastern DataComm, the district decided that all PA systems should be upgraded to operate consistently and effectively in the same manner from school to school.
Eastern DataComm implemented wireless communications capabilities for the district, head-end devices were upgraded in all schools, and additional speakers were added to ensure there were no dead zones. The system also allowed for announcements related to lockdown alerts to deploy on the upgraded system for increased clarity both indoors and outside during emergencies.
Implementing an Integrated Lockdown and Emergency Notification System for District-Wide Safety and Security
Perhaps the most pressing challenge facing Lenape Regional High School District, as well as schools across the nation, was how to best ensure the safety and security of their students, faculty, staff, and visitors.
The district previously worked with another local vendor to implement their own lockdown response system. However, that system actually failed on the first day of school, accidentally sending the school into lockdown.
In light of this experience, the district decided to work with an organization with a proven track record and expertise in emergency notification and response, reaching out to Eastern DataComm.
Eastern DataComm connected with district administrators to explore their needs and goals for the new system, exploring potential strengths and challenges before offering a diagnostic report detailing their recommendations.
The result of this consultative process was the implementation of Eastern DataComm’s cutting-edge Lockdown and Emergency Notification System (LENS). For more information on LENS, click here.
LENS was installed district-wide, in both the four high schools and the behavioral school. The wireless coverage involved allowed for comprehensive coverage of the buildings, outside areas, and remote locations like parking lots and sports fields.
Implementing Lockdown Initiation Buttons and Enhanced Phone Capabilities
In order to facilitate faster and more effective lockdown initiation, Eastern DataComm installed lockdown buttons and phones integrated with LENS in a variety of locations across the district, including large group areas like cafeterias and gyms.
The new LENS system allows Lenape’s individual schools to rapidly put themselves into lockdown, leveraging technology for efficient communication when every second counts and removing possible human error from the equation.
Upgraded PA Integration, Speakers, and Wireless Communications
Prior to working with Eastern DataComm, Lenape had exterior speakers. However, quite a few were not working properly. This meant that announcements were not projected far enough to be heard by all.
Eastern DataComm worked with the district to address this problem and to install enhanced speakers that offered clear communication. The district includes extremely large properties. So, Eastern DataComm implemented wireless communications solutions that allowed for speakers to operate on outdoor grounds including sports fields. PA announcements and visual lockdown cues like signboards and strobes could now provide increased message clarity across the entirety of each campus when a lockdown was initiated or underway.
Enhanced Strobe Lights and Sign Boards
One of the key lockdown response issues the district faced, according to Mr. Kehoe, was that when classes were changing, the hallway noise made announcements increasingly harder to hear.
During consultation with Eastern DataComm, enhancements were introduced to help solve this challenge, one which many schools encounter.
The new system included many more LED beacons and signboards in key locations throughout the building that were especially loud like gyms, cafeterias, and music rooms. In addition, Eastern DataComm installed wireless horns and beacons in the remote athletic fields and parking lots to ensure everyone in those locations would be notified of a lockdown or other emergency.
High visibility, blue strobe lights, and signboards were installed throughout the buildings and grounds, especially in key areas like parking lots, cafeterias, hallways, and gyms. Now, there are numerous ways for those in the building to know that a lockdown is initiated or in progress.
How Eastern DataComm’s Lockdown and Emergency Notification System (LENS) Helps to Keep Lenape Regional High School District Safe
The Lockdown and Emergency Notification System ( LENS) allows teachers, staff, or administrators to quickly begin lockdowns, evacuations, active shooter alerts, or shelter-in-place procedures. The lockdown sequence can be quickly activated from any classroom or office phone, or from activation buttons in key areas throughout the school buildings and grounds.
Upon activation, LENS alerts commence throughout all school buildings and grounds including intercom audio messages, strobe lights, and LED sign board messages. Wireless components ensure that the notification reaches outdoor areas, especially remote areas like sports fields and parking lots.
Activating LENS also triggers automatic calls to 911 and police without the reliance on human intervention to make the right contacts during what can be an incredibly nerve-racking emergency situation. In addition, key district-wide personnel are also alerted through phone calls, emails, PC screen pops, and text messages.
For Lenape Regional High School District, LENS brings the right technology together with all of the key procedures to provide a comprehensive emergency notification process that’s swift and effective.
Creating Safer Schools with a Combination of Technology and Mindset Shift
“What we do in one school we have to do in each school. So we worked around all four schools for what we needed. Eastern DataComm evaluated the system, making recommendations for what to improve. Everybody was helpful. Paul was fabulous. Extremely knowledgeable, very helpful, always accessible when we had questions, whether it was me or the director of buildings and grounds.”
– Jim Kehoe
Safety and Emergency Management Coordinator
Lenape Regional High School District learned several lessons from the transition to a faster, more effective emergency notification and communication technology solution.
Of note, says Mr. Kehoe, Lenape’s Safety and Emergency Management Coordinator, is the ability to place schools into lockdown very quickly. In the past, he shared, if someone saw something suspicious they’d have to call the front office, and then someone would need to decide whether to place the school into lockdown. Then, the lockdown would commence and an announcement would be made. As can be imagined, an entirely manual process left room for error.
“I think the biggest, most important effect that this has is the ability to place the school into lock down very quickly. Teachers have the ability right from their classrooms.”
He explained that this former protocol relied on a series of people to make decisions and that this process took valuable time that otherwise could be used to respond to the event in the critical early moments.
“If a teacher saw something suspicious outside, they would have to take the time to call the front office. The front office then would have to get that information, and make that determination, ‘Okay. Should I put the school in lockdown?’ And then they would have to place the school on lockdown and make a PA announcement.”
The new push-button lockdown initiation has not only made for faster response times, but it has shifted the mindset of staff, educators, and administrators. As Mr. Kehoe shared, the district now instructs people to initiate lockdowns if they feel something that’s occurring is suspicious or potentially dangerous, removing hesitation or potential delays from the equation.
“And that’s changing a mindset, because a lot of people, initially are like, ‘I don’t want to be that person that puts a school on lockdown and have to explain why.’ And even the police are coming out now, and saying they’d rather respond to a false alarm, as opposed to a real incident where you lost valuable time because of hesitation. Because every second that you delay, we find that these incidents can turn really quickly.”
Rather than worrying about false alarms, stakeholders now recognize that these sorts of incidents can move from bad to worse within moments. The faster the school enters lockdown, the more potential there is to mitigate damage and save lives. Lenape Regional High School District can now clear its hallways within 10 seconds, making the school more secure thanks to this new mindset and the technology implemented by the Eastern DataComm team.
“If everybody can lock down before that perpetrator gets into the hallway, and the hallways are clear, that person’s going to be going down the hallway, looking for kids … and we’re locked down. So it is extremely, extremely relevant and important that the faster that we have the ability to put the school on lockdown, the more lives that we could be saving.”
Mr. Kehoe also explained that the training the schools do in preparation for an emergency like an active shooter event is becoming second nature to students. The students, he says, understand drills are conducted to ensure their safety and, since they do a security drill in addition to their usual fire drills each month, the process is now routine.
“With our drills, we’re locked down, basically clearing the halls within 10 seconds … And the more quickly we secure the buildings, that’s more lives that we’re going to save.“
He shared that the district sees drills as, not an opportunity to achieve perfection, but a chance to identify areas for improvement. He notes that the drills allow them to see how everything is working, to make sure educators and staff know what to do, and to ensure communication with law enforcement and first responders is streamlined and effective.
“I think it’s becoming second nature to our students. We train with this. We do say before the drill that this is a drill because you will have a lot of concerns. They accept it. It seems to be part of life right now in the school environment. They all know that this is for their safety and they take it seriously.”
Mr. Kehoe also notes that the swift notification and lockdown initiation has supported his district’s ability to effectively communicate with police. Before a drill, the district notifies local authorities that the technology responsible for lockdown will be activated for the purposes of the drill. Then, when the lockdown drill begins, the notification goes immediately to the police without requiring further calls or human intervention. The drill creates a system of checks and balances for the district to ensure they’re prepared for a potential emergency.
“We have the ability now, when we place the school into lockdown, it immediately goes to the dispatch for police and we also receive a text notification: Law enforcement sergeants, command sergeants, they get a text or an email. That alert goes out simultaneously so we’re getting an alert from the phone as well as an email and the police departments we determined should get that alert also get that notification and it will tell you where the activation occurred.”
Partnering with Eastern DataComm for Your Safety and Communications Technology Needs
“They came out immediately. They assessed what we needed. Eastern DataComm staff was phenomenal. They worked with my staff and knew exactly what we needed. They made certain recommendations that we all agreed on. And then, we began the project of changing our phone system and adding lockdown buttons and phones in our large group areas such as the cafeterias and gymnasiums. We then had the ability to put a lockdown in place from a button or the phones in those areas.”
Safety and Emergency Management Coordinator
Mr. Kehoe noted that he has developed a solid relationship with Eastern DataComm that he expects will continue only to grow moving forward. He noted that our team has been highly responsive and easy to work with every step of the way, a goal we strive to deliver with each of our customer relationships.
When he first reached out, the Eastern DataComm team was quick to act, coming out on-site for assessment immediately. Our team worked around the needs of all schools in the district, made recommendations that thoughtfully considered those needs, and were extremely knowledgeable and helpful throughout the entirety of the process.
Mr. Kehoe also explained that with a new phone system set-up, there, of course, were some questions and slight adjustments that needed to be made to best suit the needs of users. As these minor issues arose, the team at Eastern DataComm was swift in addressing the needs of Lenape Regional High School District, making the process seamless, and accomplishing fixes remotely for immediate resolution.
Further, he was grateful that Eastern DataComm took the time to train support staff on the use and general programming of the new system so that those who use the system most often feel empowered to do so confidently.
Mr. Kehoe noted that the district received everything they needed and even reached out to continue the relationship by adding additional technology solutions. In the future, the district is considering more strobes and other features to increase the safety and security of the individual schools and knows that Eastern DataComm will be here as their collaborative partner to continue to assist them with their evolving needs.
These insights speak to what truly sets Eastern DataComm apart from others in our field: When we become your school safety partner, we apply our comprehensive diagnostic, collaborative, and consultative approach to technology solutions that best serve the entirety of your school district’s needs. We do all of this while delivering fast, effective service that goes beyond what you’d expect from other vendors.
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