How to Select the Ideal Emergency Notification System for Your School District

4 January 2023 | By viviedu

An emergency notification system for schools is essential to maintaining a safe and functional educational environment. In a survey conducted by Campus Safety, participants ranked campus-wide notifications as of the highest importance among several other systems for improving school safety, including off-premise notification like text messaging (which came in second) and physical security. 

Campus-wide notifications can alert and instruct students, teachers, staff, and visitors, helping them remain safe and reassuring them day-to-day that if something is going on, they’ll know immediately. This includes digital signage and PA systems. Used effectively, emergency notification systems can help keep everyone on the campus safer and more prepared in the event of an emergency, alerting individuals anywhere on the campus of an emergency or a hazard to help them know exactly what to do, within moments.

Critical Factors When Selecting an Emergency Notification System for Schools

An emergency notification system for schools should provide a fast and effective response when there is an emergency or event. We’ll get into more detail on these below, but the following factors are critical in ensuring an emergency notification system meets the needs of the school district:

What Are the Primary Types of Alert Systems Schools Employ?

There are several emergency notification systems for schools. While some provide more speed or accessibility, a school district will ideally deploy several systems to ensure a redundant and widely accessible alert to every individual on campus. Your district can choose from the following emergency notification systems for schools:

Emergency notification systems for schools rely on input to broadcast the alert or notification message. The input can come from local authorities, such as police or fire departments, or on-campus from an in-app panic button, one-touch badge, wall-mounted panic button, or a manually activated system by an authorized individual or group. For instance, a public address system or digital signage can be activated by a school administrator, IT, or another staff member.

If your school district already has a notification system, it can benefit from one or more additional systems to ensure complete campus coverage, accessibility, and redundancy. Having only one system means your school district’s emergency preparedness has a single point of failure that can significantly impact school safety if it fails during an emergency. 

The system may also lack accessibility and inclusivity to alert everyone on campus. For instance, a visiting guardian or vendor may not have had the opportunity to download the district’s emergency notification app. A survey of school districts in 2022 found that 33% of schools had only one emergency notification system, but most had two or more. More schools adopt additional alert systems every year.

Related: Is a DIY Approach to Digital Signage On-Campus Actually Effective?

What Are the Goals of an Emergency Notification System for Schools and What Should You Look For When Choosing One?

An emergency notification system’s primary objective is ensuring everyone’s safety on the school campus and, in an emergency, providing direction so that as many people as possible can take the necessary action to stay safe. 

Knowing the types of emergency alert systems and deploying more than one complementary system will help your district meet its objective. When you are selecting an emergency alert system for your school district, evaluate the solution on  the following essential goals:

  1. Evaluate How Quickly the System Can Initiate a Response in Case of Emergency

As mentioned earlier, an immediate response is one of the primary goals an emergency notification system should meet. In an emergency, the school district may only have seconds to save lives and ensure the safety of students, teachers, staff, and visitors. A school administrator should be able to activate the emergency alert system at a moment’s notice. 

Some digital signage and PA systems allow administrators to record or prefabricate a message for use during an emergency, offering a near-immediate response. Templates can also assist operators in providing fast notifications. Look for a system that is cloud-based, so an authorized individual can immediately activate the system from a mobile device inside or outside of the school.

  1. Evaluate the Features of the System, Ensuring it Allows the School to Respond Appropriately to Any Emergency Situation

An emergency notification system for schools should be able to respond quickly to a wide range of incidents. The system you select for your district should be able to keep students and staff informed and able to take immediate action during a major threat like an active shooter situation while also providing notification and instructions for less severe events, such as an isolated emergency on one part of the campus, or a cardiac arrest incident. 

A responsive alert system can keep individuals safe from hazardous situations and clear an area for first responders to act without interruptions.

  1. Evaluate the Ability of the System to Reliably Alert Everyone In Every Building

Lack of coverage can be a major issue for certain emergency notification systems for schools. An ideal system will alert all students, teachers, staff, and visitors wherever they’re at around campus, with any connected screen in any, and all buildings, depending on the situation. 

For instance, a PA system may not reach students wearing headphones or hard-of-hearing and deaf individuals. An SMS or app-generated message may also have difficulty reaching individuals who have their phones in silent mode or who are busy in class or visiting the campus.

School districts can bolster their existing emergency notification system coverage by implementing redundant and complementary systems. For instance, the visual notification of a digital signage solution can complement the audio alert of a PA system. The systems can work together by warning individuals to stay away from an area using the PA system, than reiterating this message and providing a map to reach a safe area using the digital signage solution.

  1. Evaluate the Ability of the Emergency Notification System to Work in Any Situation

During an emergency, conditions for activating the school district’s emergency alert system may not be favorable. An emergency alert system should work in numerous situations and conditions, such as fires, active shooter situations, and power outages. 

Having several complementary and redundant systems can mitigate single-point failure that can risk safety on campus. For instance, if a situation prevents administration and staff from reaching the PA system, an SMS alert system or digital signage solution that administrators can wirelessly activate will ensure the notifications reach individuals in and around the school.

Related: The Benefits of Digital Signage in Education

The Place of Digital Signage in Your School District’s Emergency Notification System

Whether you intend to replace your school district’s current emergency notification system or improve it with a complementary alert system, a digital signage solution can help. The right digital signage platform will allow any display connected to the school network, such as interactive flat panels and projectors connected to the wireless screen mirroring solution, to receive a room, building, or campus-wide message from a school administrator or another authorized individual in an emergency.

Digital signage offers a high visibility solution with sound, video, and images, especially if individuals are already engaged with the displays in the course of their school day. Displays can be mounted throughout the school and in outdoor areas to inform individuals in the parking lot or field. Notifications can be deployed quickly from district IT or administrators’ devices. Pre-made content or templates can be sent to displays throughout the school campus or district in seconds. Administrators can also give individuals instructions to keep them from a hazard.Vivi is a wireless digital signage solution that can turn your school district’s classroom displays and digital signage displays into an emergency notification system at a moment’s notice. More than 1,400 schools use Vivi to wirelessly distribute routine and emergency announcements to displays throughout the school. Vivi offers school administrators and IT a simple, fast, and accessible method of distributing announcements and notifications to the entire school or district. Book a demo to see how Vivi can make a difference for your campus.