THICK, UNWIELDY three-ring binders are no place to keep school emergency response protocols. In a crisis, information and time are critical. Precious time can be lost in locating a binder, flipping through the tabs to find the correct section, and finally finding the vital information. And what if an evacuation is necessary? So you lug the binder out and start the information search all over again during different stages of the emergency? Even then, its contents are only as good as the people who created it, limited to how much the binder can hold, and only accessible to those on site.
But in the digital age, when information can be securely accessed and disseminated in an instant, more schools are turning to advanced measures such as database-driven crisis management software solutions.
A Better Response
Seattle-based Prepared Response (www.preparedresponse.com) was founded to help prevent tragedies like the one that transpired at Colorado's Columbine High School in 1999. There were no established protocols for that type of attack, and it forever changed the concept of school security.
Prepared Response wants to use technology to better respond to emergencies like Columbine. The company wants to help schools engage in state-of-the-art planning measures with school officials and police, fire, state patrol, and emergency services, and distribute the critical information via a secure internet connection, network, or USB storage device. Company officials believe preparedness is key to a strong defense.
To a first responder, there's nothing worse than arriving at a site and not knowing exactly where the emergency is and how to get to it. Prepared Response's Rapid Responder solution is designed to eliminate this scenario.
"We usually implement the system a whole district at a time, which includes working closely with local responders," says Jim Finnell, president and CEO of Prepared Response. "We notify them that if they get a 911 call at a specific address, that site has the Rapid Responder system. We database everything you would want to know about a critical infrastructure, so when first responders arrive at the scene, they don't have to go looking for information in order to make decisions.
"The system is not meant to replace a 911 system, but when that call does occur, within seconds, first responders can get right on the system and have immediate access to everything they need to know."
"There's no limit to what kind of information can be entered [in the system]," says Walt Pegram, district resource officer Spokane Public Schools in the state of Washington.
With Rapid Responder, school officials and first responders can instantly access more than 300 data points, including tactical plans, satellite and geospatial imagery, interior and exterior photos, floor plans, staging areas, hazardous materials, utility shut-offs, best access and evacuation routes, incident response plans, and containment and family reunification locations. Try stuffing all that in a binder.
On Sept. 22, 2003, a student pulled out a 9-millimeter handgun during science class at Lewis & Clark High School in Spokane, WA, shot at a cabinet, and demanded the teacher and students leave the room.
Fortunately, Rapid Responder was already in place. Within minutes of the shot, the software was up and running in a command center, providing site-specific information. Arriving officers were able to isolate the gunman in less than 12 minutes, while more than 2,000 students were quickly evacuated.
Using the system, officials noticed that the room in which the gunman was holed up had unobstructed views of a field where the students had been evacuated to--along with eight lanes of traffic on an adjacent freeway. Using contacts listed in the database, officials called a transportation vendor to immediately send buses to relocate the students off site. …