Best Practices for Using an Emergency Alert System for Schools

14 December 2022 | By viviedu

The safety of students, faculty, staff, and visitors is the number one priority of school districts. While many rely on traditional means, new technologies can enhance the emergency alert system for schools. Your district can improve the effectiveness of its existing public address systems and wall or pole-mounted emergency panic buttons to improve school safety and save lives. Mobile notification apps, one-touch alert badges, and digital signage for emergency response purposes have gained support among educational institutions. However, having just one or two options may not be enough to keep the campus safe.

A survey from Campus Safety found that nearly 35% of schools surveyed have only one emergency alert system, and 64% have at least two. If your district is not investing in a comprehensive notification system, there could be a costly gap in your emergency preparedness. A wirelessly integrated digital signage solution offers secure central management and can help your district enhance its incident response. We will guide you through the best practices to optimize your emergency alert system to preserve the safety of everyone on campus.

How to Optimize Your District’s Emergency Alert System for Schools to Respond to Incidents Quickly

Prepare Announcements in Advance for Fast Deployment

As an IT administrator for your school district, it is essential to have a clear, concise, and functional emergency alert system for schools in place. The notification system works to receive alerts from local authorities, transmit information about an emergency to district administrators and local authorities, and inform individuals on the campus of any incidents. District IT can improve the safety of everyone by making the transmission of information reliable, fast, and accessible.

Prepare the emergency alert system for quick deployment in advance to inform students, faculty, staff, and visitors on the campus. Public address systems can be employed more quickly when the announcements are pre-recorded and activated with the push of a button using an automated system. It ensures that the message is clear and concise if administrators cannot safely reach the intercom.

District IT should also prepare visual announcements or templates for quick deployment with a digital signage solution. When digital signage and displays offer central control throughout the school district using a wireless screen mirroring solution, district IT can quickly relay announcements and alerts throughout numerous displays on a single campus or the entire district.

Related: How to plan content for your digital signage

Have a Responsive System in Place

The school district’s emergency alert system should permit quick activation to save lives in an emergency. A one-touch activation system on a worn badge can offer a swift response compared to a mobile app that may require the caller to reach into a pocket or drawer to access their phone. Seconds can save lives in medical emergencies, life-threatening fights, and active shooter situations. While deadly events can be rare, they can occur at any time and place on campus and require adequate preparation to prevent. A school resource officer or local authorities should train faculty and staff on how to respond to various emergencies and when and how to use the notification system the district has employed.

Medical emergencies affect students, faculty, staff, and visitors and require an immediate response to save lives. A study by the Pennsylvania School Board Association found that nearly 1 out of 70 schools annually experience a sudden cardiac arrest incident. The study states that coaches undergo annual training to respond to cardiac arrest incidents. Offering training to staff throughout the facility can minimize the chance of a tragedy.

The emergency alert and notification systems should also have several layers of redundancy. For instance, if a mobile panic badge or one-touch system is not working, other options should be nearby to call for help in an emergency. If the public address system is not operational or not reachable by school administrators, an IT administrator’s wireless device can activate digital signage throughout the campus.

Account for the Entire Campus

An emergency alert system for schools should be available to students, teachers, staff, visitors, and other individuals on campus to respond to emergencies. Accidents and emergencies can happen anywhere on campus, including parking lots, stadiums, and playgrounds, and these areas can be more difficult for staff to respond to an incident. A mobile panic button for individual school staff and emergency phones or panic buttons in isolated or outdoor areas can ensure more coverage.

Everyone within the campus should be able to call for help using a combination of traditional wall-mounted panic buttons, emergency apps, and one-touch badges. They should also be able to receive the notification clearly at the time of the emergency alert, including those in the parking lot, restrooms, and playground areas. The safety of staff, teachers, students, and visitors depends on receiving a notification no matter where they are located on the campus when the alert goes out. School districts should invest in a public address system and strobe lights that can alert individuals in all areas of the facility, along with digital notification systems like digital signage that are visible inside and outside the school.

According to the national association of the deaf, more than 300,000 deaf or hard-of-hearing students are enrolled in US K-12 schools, and more than 230,000 are in mainstream classrooms without individualized education programs. Digital signage solutions can improve the equity of the announcement system by alerting deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals in an emergency. They can also help students who otherwise would not hear the public address system—such as those wearing headphones or in a loud classroom—to see the message.

Quickly and Concisely Provide Details to First Responders

Modern emergency alert systems for schools can quickly relay critical information to the district administration and first responders using automation. While verbally providing basic information—such as name and location—to first responders can be extremely difficult during an emergency, mobile panic button badges and other devices can be pre-programmed to provide accurate information. They can include the user’s name and give a location using GPS, cellular data, and WiFi telemetry systems the first responders and administrators can use to take action with high accuracy.

When the first responders are alerted to the location of an incident, district IT or administrators can inform the rest of the campus of the emergency and how to stay safe. For instance, if there is a dangerous fight at the auxiliary building entrance, administrators can alert the campus to move out of the area and get to safety. Digital signage provides a visual and easy-to-understand message for everyone on campus.

Respond to Emergencies Consistently

Emergency alert systems for schools should provide a consistent response to accidents, health and safety issues, natural disasters, and disruptive incidents. An effective notification system allows district administrators and IT to quickly alert every individual on the school campus of an emergency. Serious violence is becoming more commonplace in schools, and fights or disputes can quickly become deadly. The National Center for Educational Statistics recorded nearly 55,000 severe violent incidents at schools during the 2017-2018 school year, an increase of almost 15,000 from 2015-2016.

Different emergencies warrant distinct responses, but your emergency alert system should be able to address them consistently. For instance, if an escalation between students or an irate visitor and campus staff, your emergency notification system should be able to alert individuals on campus to stay away from the area or clear the area for first responders, school resource officers, or campus security. If a student is injured or collapses, your system should also allow you to clear the area so first responders can assess the situation quickly. Digital signage and displays paired with a wireless screen mirroring solution can get the word out rapidly from a centrally controlled system using pre-made messages or templates.

How Your School District’s Emergency Alert System Can Benefit From Digital Signage

Your school district can benefit from the added notification capabilities of a digital signage system. Even if you already have a public address system, emergency notification app/SMS, one-touch badges, and traditional wall or pole-mounted panic buttons, it can enhance school safety. Digital signage solutions offer concise and visual information to all individuals with a display or digital sign in their sight. It provides redundancy for public address systems that may not be within reach of an administrator and mobile apps that can be unreliable and inaccessible.

District IT, and administrators can remotely manage digital signage with a wireless screen mirroring solution. Templates and pre-made announcements allow quick activation during a district or campus-wide emergency. They offer wireless connectivity to every display in the district, whether you need to alert a handful of classrooms or everyone in the district. The displays can also be secure from curious students and other third-party tampering and provide general announcements like cafeteria menus, fundraisers, and holiday messages.

Related: The Benefits of Digital Signage in Education

Optimize Your School District’s Emergency Alert System

Your district’s emergency alert system for schools can be fortified with Vivi, a wireless screen mirroring and digital signage solution that works with your district’s existing displays and software. Vivi offers district IT central management for access control, updates, and deployment of emergency announcements. It can convey information to numerous devices and digital signage solutions using Vivi, from a handful of displays in a building to the entire district. Book a demo with Vivi today.