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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MASS NOTIFICATION AND EMERGENCY COMMUNICATION system would be aided by incorporating as many recognized and recommended practices as possible. I did receive an emergency notification because the school district, like many other school districts in our state, uses a phone tree calling approach to alert district staff on weekends, holidays and other after-hours periods. The EF2 tornados that left a swath of extensive damage just one-and–one-half miles from my home were a major disaster we will long remember. I can attest that, "Learning to dance the night of the prom is too late." It is important to plan ahead for emergencies so that your mass communications efforts will reach the right people at the right time and in the right ways. There are some positive practices to help schools develop, maintain and manage a mass notification and communication system. Develop a plan Each organization, whether it is a major university with 40,000 students or a small school district of 1,800 students, should have a well-designed emergency/crisis communications plan for timely incident notification. Bringing the right people to the table in developing this plan is critical for an effective strategy. Some of the people that should be represented during the development of your emergency/communications plan are public safety personnel, information technology staff, faculty, students, representatives of the communications division and members of your crisis management team. The International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators (IACLEA) in its 2008 "Overview of the Virginia Tech Tragedy and Implications for Campus SafetyThe IACLEA Blueprint for Safer Campuses" states, "A building block of campus safety is a mass, emergency notification system." The development of the emergency communications plan should lead an organization to the drafting of a detail Request for Proposal (RFP) for the purchase of emergency notification services. A best practice would be to draft a comprehensive RFP for the educational units to aid in securing a mass/emer- 64 ISTOCKPHOTO/MARK ROSE SAFETY & SECURITY Sounding an Alarm. Something has gone wrong at the school — it could be due to weather, an incident on campus or even something not school-related that occurred near the facility. In all cases, people need to be notified. Who, how and what to say may be different depending on the circumstances, but the timing is always immediately. Schools and districts need a mass/emergency notification system that can utilize current and future mass communication methods. gency notification system to meet the needs and expectations of the organization. According to IACLEA, the system purchased should have an array of means and methods to disseminate information to various groups within your campus communities during an emergency. Most educational organizations today are operating on a "pork-and-beans" budget, while their quest for a robust mass/emergency notification system comes with a "prime rib price tag." After reviewing many RFPs from K-12 school districts and schools should look for systems that are userfriendly, with a web-based interface that allows a non-technical user to self-administer and manage time-sensitive communication to subscribers. SCHOOL PLANNING & MANAGEMENT / JANUARY 2013 universities and K-12 education units, I have found a wide range of system requirements and specifications being requested to meet the needs of these organizations. Your RFP should reflect how your organization intends to use the mass/emergency notification system. Some major specifications listed in your RFP might be: General requirements — an example of such a requirement would be "the service must be web-based and the vendor should provide a comprehensive list of supported web browsers and computing platforms, or the detailed specification requirements for the web browser." Contact database — an example of such requirement in this area would be "the contact data must remain private and inaccessible to any user other than and administrator and the data owner." A mass/emergency notification system with future mass communication methods in mind — What type of support does the system provide for specified devices such as: instant messaging (IM), sirens, public address systems, campus two-way radios, desktop/laptop notification via specialized clients or digital signage on campus? And WWW.PLANNING 4EDUCATION.COM

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