There are an overwhelming number of emergency notification options available to potentially enhance the physical security of schools and districts. From tech companies offering text-alert systems, to service partners offering “one size fits all” packages, to vendors that advertise the chance to build your own system by purchasing components piece by piece. After reviewing the landscape of players in this field, those charged with ensuring the safety and security of their buildings and grounds are often left wondering: Where should I start?
At Eastern DataComm, we’ve worked with hundreds of schools and districts over the years to provide them with the insight it takes to comprehensively answer that very question. Our experience has allowed us to develop a unique and remarkably effective approach to school safety and emergency notification.
Today, we’re exploring our methodology, the technology and solutions that support it, and why school leaders are choosing this solution over other, less robust and effective options year after year.
Why Select a Holistic Emergency Notification Strategy Over a Piece-by-Piece Approach
How can schools increase the effectiveness of their emergency notification systems to mitigate potential for damage and loss of life? One thing is certain: No two schools will have the exact same needs. For this reason, cookie-cutter solutions are tenuous at best. Customization is the true hallmark of a system that will work best for the unique needs that each school needs to address. The one common thread among all schools across the country? Every school needs an effective, comprehensive strategy underlying their emergency notification system.
Even school buildings that share similar layout, construction, or are located within the same community will have unique facets to keep in mind. Strengths and vulnerabilities for each building, within the context of the purpose it serves, populations that traffic it, and the daily conditions within need to be assessed and addressed. The same too holds true for exterior and remote locations on a campus like parking lots and athletic fields.
It stands to reason that the best approach includes not only choosing the right technology solution components (from strobe lights and bells to LED signage), but a comprehensive strategy that ensures optimal coverage for all areas. Ultimately, the system’s design and implementation process must reduce the chance for human error when time is of the essence.
Where Single-Mode Approaches Fall Short
Though the intentions are good, the limitations can be severe.
When an emergency notification solution provides only a single mode or channel of notification, it’s clear that there are limitations for whether or not those messages will reach all parties as intended. But, what may not be clear is just how this unimodal or single-channel approach misses the mark.
One might wonder if it is even worth considering a single channel approach. However, some schools and districts do opt to go this route. Why is that the case? Some solutions tout that they offer technologies that check the right boxes – focusing more on the legal requirements rather than true practical applications. Dealing with repercussions of active shooters on a campus remains a multi-layered problem, compounded by the unceasing barrage of event after event taking place seemingly without any end in sight. One thing to keep in mind – legal requirements for emergency notification may not be advancing at the same pace that the urgency to address these issues is occurring. So though a well-intentioned solution may ‘make good’ against what the law mandates, it is important to think critically about the comprehensiveness of that solution and if it can and should be used in tandem with other protective technology measures.
Furthermore, what bears mentioning here is that often, what is ‘legally required’ is a bare minimum threshold to be met. A solution that might be appealing because of extremely low costs may leave you vulnerable to liability, even if you do what you’re required to do from a legal standpoint.
This is true in a number of cases, but especially when it comes to app-based approaches.
As we shared in our Connected and Protected Webinar, Why Apps Are Not Enough: How Holistic, Comprehensive Approaches to School Safety Save Lives, schools necessitate a robust approach to emergency notification. Comprehensive approaches to architect the school safety ecosystem provide more than simply security theater.
Another reason single-mode or app-based approaches are not enough on their own is that they cannot effectively provide total coverage for all buildings, grounds, and even remote or noise polluted/congested locations. We explore total coverage in a recent blog that shares the importance of implementing a multimodal solution. A holistic approach ensures everyone in your buildings and on your grounds can receive an emergency notification through a variety of channels and mechanisms of delivery. The key benefit of total coverage comes down to response. With emergency notifications blanketing a campus, you’re now given a fighting chance to have a swift, effective response that can help save lives.
Single-mode approaches simply can’t deliver that level of notification coverage.
Where Piece-by-Piece Approaches Miss the Mark
If single-mode approaches miss the mark, it stands to reason that perhaps building one’s own emergency notification system may be a better approach. After all, piece-by-piece vendors often offer schools and districts the opportunity to ‘build your own’, providing access to strobes and other items that districts can purchase as needed.
Where these sorts of vendor relationships for emergency notification falls short is in what it lacks: A strategic approach to planning and implementation.
Even the most dedicated school or district will need experienced strategic guidance from professionals who can help them evaluate not only the options for components to use in their emergency notification system, but those who can help them use those components in a way that’s integrated and addresses their unique needs.
District stakeholders should not be tasked with figuring things out alone. Strategizing about how to reduce human error during urgent situations is a task best reserved for professionals and discerning how to apply that strategy to a particular school is a truly collaborative process.
So, what piece-by-piece solutions truly lack is exactly that: A diagnostic and collaborative process when those who are experts on the district (district stakeholders) and those who are experts on implementing emergency notification and communication solutions come together with the common goal of enhancing the way that district responds to emergencies.
Piece-by-piece solutions, though customizable, typically lack that essential collaboration piece and this often makes them far more expensive in the long run: not only in fiscal terms, but in terms of effort and energy expended by trying to figure things out without the right support.
Why a Holistic, Comprehensive Safety Approach Serves Schools Best
At Eastern DataComm, we address emergency notification differently than many others in the technology field. From the beginning of our partnership with customers through implementation and beyond, we focus on solutions that fit not just today’s needs, but will scale with you as your community grows and needs evolve.
It all begins with our approach to customer relationships. We’ve covered our diagnostic and consultative methodology in greater detail in previous articles. But simply put, we listen to you, our customer, to garner a full understanding of the safety and communications challenges you face daily. We get to know your unique strengths and areas that would benefit from additional support or enhanced systems.
Our consultative and diagnostic process involves a variety of techniques including diagramming/blueprinting schematics for system layout. We work with your school personnel to understand things like highly trafficked areas, bottlenecks, stronger points of ingress and egress, and noise-polluted areas. Understandably, when all of these factors are considered, it’s easy to see why no two schools are exactly alike. We consider our level of detail and commitment to deliver comprehensive solutions not a ‘nice to have’, but an absolute essential component to effectively serve our customers. We review the process of installation with you so that you understand timelines for execution and can schedule proper testing of the solution before launching. We train your team to use the system effectively so that everything is clear from the outset, and remain dedicated to providing you with customer service to address any inquiries as they arise.
The result is a right-fit, fully customized, comprehensive, and effective school safety and emergency notification solution. More often than not, that solution includes a uniquely tailored version of our Lockdown and Emergency Notification System (LENS), in combination with OPTICS, our continuous monitoring service.
Get to Know LENS + OPTICS
At Eastern DataComm, we know that a focus on automation, integration, and customization offers our clients the best approach to handle the delivery of emergency notifications.
We also understand that even the most level-headed team of school personnel are, of course, human. And when emergencies occur, those situations bring with them an incomprehensible amount of stress to the entire school community. Preventing the opportunity for human error is not only ideal to have, it is essential to the effectiveness of any school’s emergency response system.
So, unlike other options schools or districts might find elsewhere, our LENS + OPTICS system offers total coverage, multi-layer protection, and a truly holistic approach to emergency notification. We’ve crafted the solution to respond to the needs schools face in today’s world.
Our solution is fast-acting, automated, and includes auditory and visual emergency announcements working in unison to cover areas inside and outside your buildings. It integrates with your school’s wired or wireless networks and phone system so it can be activated at the push of a button, using an app on a smart device, or by dialing a code on a phone. Multimodal accessibility for initiating emergency notifications is a key differentiator from others in our industry.
Once activated, the system initiates pre-recorded emergency calls to police and first responders. Comprehensive notifications are delivered via visual and auditory cues including pre-recorded announcements over the PA system and corresponding speakers, activation of LED beacons and signboards, calls to cell phones and desk phones, PC pop-ups, emails, and text messages.
To further your physical security efforts, LENS + OPTICS can integrate with video surveillance and access control systems that support law enforcement in directly defining the location of the threat and allow officials to limit entry or exit in particular areas.
With OPTICS, our continuous monitoring service, this emergency notification solution becomes even more robust. OPTICS provides an added layer of protection by monitoring the components that influence the system health of LENS.
Instead of starting with self-identified needs and hours-upon-hours of getting cookie-cutter, one-size-fits all options from vendors, work with a partner who sees the true value of effectively architecting a school safety ecosystem.
Final Thoughts on Effective Emergency Notification and Response
As we reflect on what’s needed to effectively enhance the way school officials employ technology to respond to emergencies, the answer is clear: The technology needs to be customized, user-friendly, integrated, and comprehensive. Solutions must address the unique needs of your particular campus. The relationship with those providing such solutions needs to be a partnership, not simply a vendor-to-customer commodity transaction.
Partnering with a knowledgeable, experienced team ensures the service and solutions make sense, run effectively and efficiently, are delivered on-time, and are within budget. When seconds can mean the difference between lives saved or catastrophic losses, choosing the right partner for your school safety journey makes all the difference.
Get the Safety & Communications Conversation Started!
If you’re looking to enhance how your school or district responds to emergencies like active shooter events, contact us at [email protected] for a Complimentary School Safety Consultation. We’re here to help your school or district stay connected and protected!