September is National Preparedness Month in the USA. Most every business is familiar with fire drills, and many educational institutions are now using ALICE Training to prepare for intruders. Our OneVue Notify InfoBoards are a new visual element of a larger emergency response plan, so we’re going to take a high-level overview of preparedness, both to provide materials and resources, and also to consider how InfoBoards fit into the security landscape.
If an institution is considering revising an emergency plan, or creating a new one from scratch, a great tool is the Guide for Developing High-Quality School Emergency Operations Plans, published by FEMA. This is a straightforward, step-by-step document which lays out the elements necessary to create a functional plan for critical situations.
FEMA also publishes a useful Sample School Emergency Operations Plan. As we all know, it is often easier to work from a template than to create a working document from scratch. Canadian schools may be interested in Nova Scotia’s School Emergency Management Plan, for much the same reasons.
Some states offer templates ready-to-go, in full compliance with the needs and regulations which apply locally, such as the Arizona school site emergency response template.
The central issue is to consider likely scenarios and work them through, long before a critical situation may occur.
Integrating a New Tool into the Plan
InfoBoards are a new type of tool for emergency preparedness, with unique benefits in a critical situation:
- Near-instant activation of emergency messages from a simple button board
- Integration with other security and notification tools
- High visibility for noisy and/or busy areas
- Ability to communicate quickly to the hearing-impaired
But like any tool, thought must be given to how it works within your institution’s overall emergency plan. Questions to consider:
Is your system configured for power and network outages? Some emergencies, such as earthquakes, can disable power, wired networks, or both. When installing any sort of alert or security system, consider whether it can be made independent from these points of failure, as well as the possibility of providing emergency generators if the need is great enough. A low-cost solution for many locations is to provide uninterruptible power supply (UPS) backup for all power over Ethernet (PoE) network switches, and other systems.
Who controls the alert system? Given that the OneVue Notify system can be controlled from a simple button board, who has access to that board?
Where is the button board located? In a small building this may be obvious, but consider a larger, multi-structure campus. Do you install boards in a central administrator’s or secretary’s office in each building? Have a protocol for calling/texting/alerting a central controller?
What advance communication should be sent out to students and staff on how to respond? If, for example, a student sees a yellow alert message “WEATHER,” will they understand the likely scenarios this entails, and the actions to take, such as proceeding to the nearest shelter? Briefing your campus may make a real difference when a critical situation occurs.
Is “LOCKDOWN” feasible? If your facility is confronted with a hostile intruder, do you have the necessary elements to initiate a lockdown where areas of the building can be compartmentalized? If not, what other options are available? If you are unable to secure the facility, should “EVACUATE” be the default?
All of these elements need to be used in conjunction with good sense: developing relationships with local law enforcement and emergency responders, and drilling scenarios appropriate to your situation. (You probably don’t need to perform tsunami drills in Oklahoma, for example, or wildfire preparation in Pittsburgh.)
Our goal at Primex is to provide new, useful tools to help you communicate quickly with staff and students in an emergency. Note that we love hearing from you, since your input drives our designs and product improvements. In particular, if there is a tool you find useful for emergency planning and preparedness, we’d like to hear about it!
Thanks so much,