School Planning & Management

JAN 2013

School Planning & Management is the information resource for professionals serving the K-12 education market. Covering facilities, security, technology and business.

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is there unlimited notification throughout out the duration of the contract term? This is a major consideration in the college and university environment, but is relevant on K-12 campuses as well. Another key area in the RFP major specifications is the technology support and training by the system vendor at start-up and long term. These two areas could have major impact on maintaining and managing your mass notification and communication. Does the system provider provide on-site, online training options and on-demand self-training options? Staff changes in the field of education across the entire face of the organization demands a system with the flexibility to deliver these types of training options. Another positive practice involves purchasing a system that allows ease in managing the contact database. The service provider should be able to describe for the organization the maximum number of users, contact methods the system is capable of supporting and to describe the capabilities and limitations of this function. Does the system allow the global administrator the ability to temporarily flag a user who is going away on an extended absence to prevent notifications? Does the system allow for non-traditional members of the community (such as summer educational groups/camps, seminar attendees, campus visitors) to participate in the mass/emergency notification system? How easy is it for the organization to update the contact database, including bulk updates, administrator updates and user self-updates? In the event of an actual emergency situation, does the system provide for conference bridging? It is becoming increasingly clear that today's school officials can no longer depend on a single mode of communications for emergency notification. Establishing an emergency communication system's reach encompasses issues specific to both individual technologies as well as various messaging formats, and demands emphasis on gauging both the advantages and the limitations of the particular technology. It starts with the well-designed emergency/crisis communication plan developed in concert with public safety, IT, communication, faculty/students and other key stakeholders. The drafting of comprehensive Request for Proposal (RFP) aids in the purchase of the system to meet your organizations mass/emergency communication needs. Purchase a mass/emergency communication with the idea of where you want to be in the near and distant future and not where you are right now. Keep in mind what Grevey says in "Best Practices in Emergency Notifications" — there is no single best practice in emergency communication, and each community is different. Grevey suggests that it is important to have an established system operating procedure. She recommends organizations consult with their neighboring communities and other agencies in the public safety sphere to gather their expertise. K-12 school districts and schools should look for systems that are user-friendly, with a web-based interface that allows a non-technical user to self-administer and manage time-sensitive communication to subscribers. You may only need a system that will allow you to communicate more routine information such as school closings, delayed openings, important announcements, meetings and absentee notifications. However, the system you purchase should enhance your campus safety process as you strive to improve your emergency planning and critical incident response. Mother's Day 2008, taught me the importance of having a mass emergency notification plan to complement and support the technologies that allow for mass notification. Planning ahead for emergencies so that your mass notifications efforts will reach the right people at the right time is as important as the technology selected. I sleep better knowing my K-12 school system has a plan and a robust notification system to carry out our plan under extremely challenging conditions. SPM >> Russell Bentley is a school district police chief with more than 20 years of experience. While working as an analyst for Safe Havens International, a nonprofit school safety center, Mr. Bentley has keynoted conferences, has presented in nearly 40 states, and has assisted with school safety, security and emergency preparedness assessments for more than 2,000 public and non-public schools across the nation. Mr. Bentley welcomes reader feedback and questions at www.safehavensinternational.org. fabric structures ing or growing, Whether playing, train vered. ClearSpan keeps you co Sustainable Design-Build Solutions Low in cost per square foot. Natural daytime lighting. Easy to relocate. Expandable. Call one of our ClearSpan specialists today at 1.866.643.1010 or visit www.ClearSpan.com/ADSPM. JANUARY 2013 / SCHOOL PLANNING & MANAGEMENT 65

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