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Safety Advocates

Enhancing School Safety with Technology

11.02.17

An excerpt from Jim McKay’s complete article, “From Clipboards to iPads: How We’ve Put Students – And Their Safety – First.” Read the full article on Upshot.

The difference is monumental.  No more cumbersome binders.  We’ve gone from clipboards to iPads.

Putting Students – and Safety – First

Putting our students first means thinking—first and foremost—about their wellbeing. The one responsibility we all have—teachers, principals, administrators, and support staff—is student safety. But how do you prepare for an emergency? How do you conduct an emergency drill? What are the tools and procedures in place?

Reflecting back, few have ever questioned our emergency preparedness routine. It was an arduous and inefficient process. I wanted a tool that was more efficient; a system that was faster, more accurate, and easier to manage. Every school used to have an enormous three-ring binder called a Safety Procedures Manual. Each one was three- to six-inches thick, and my deans painstakingly assembled them together over the summer, and delivered them to me in late July or early August.

NaviGate Prepared was the system we’d been looking for: It was comprehensive, but not overwhelming. And best of all, it would make our process more efficient without adding more work for our staff.

Drills Were Once Cumbersome

Let me walk you through a typical emergency drill: The fire alarm sounds and the fire marshal starts his stopwatch. Teachers and administrators evacuate all the students and support staff. Then the emergency responders sweep the school, making sure everyone gets out.

As they sweep the school, teachers go around with clipboards, checking off students’ names. Administrators run around with more clipboards making sure the teachers account for all of their students. We would use actual physical buckets that would contain full rosters for every school.

Can you imagine the chaos? Each building has over 100 teachers and nearly 1,400 students. It was not the most efficient process. We took attendance manually and reported results by radio. “Yes, we have everyone,” or “No, we’re missing so-and-so.” What a nightmare!

We conducted a fire drill at Lakes Community High School using the Respond app in NaviGate Prepared. We were done in 28 minutes. All 1,359 students were accounted for in less than a third of the time it would usually take.

With Technology, the Difference Was Monumental

The implementation of a new technology often opens up new conversations and provides unique insights. NaviGate Prepared transformed the way we managed safety procedures, but it also made me consider issues that had never occurred to me before. None of these insights would have been possible when we used clipboards and radios.

This new system made us take a step back and ask ourselves the tough questions. It made us question if we were doing everything possible for the safety of our students. Because if we aren’t doing everything we can, are we really putting our students first? I can now sleep easily at night knowing that we are.

Jim McKay
Superintendent at Community High School District #117

Thank you, Jim, for sharing your experiences and insights on school safety!

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