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Using Technology To Keep Students With Special Needs Safe

Intermediate Units provide educational instruction and related services to some of the most challenging and fragile children in our school systems. These children have a vast variety of educational, emotional and physical disabilities. Of course, a timely and effective response to emergencies in any school setting is critical to protecting students and staff. However, with Intermediate Units, response to even the most mundane events trigger actions that involve children with significant physical, visual, communication and developmental challenges. As a result, we adopted Emergency Management software, a safety app designed to help staff respond safely and effectively during drills and emergencies.

We needed to beef up safety plans and move to an electronic format. I have spent my career working in education and I can speak to the layers of coordination that go into emergency preparedness. They understand those complex layers and how to methodically transition from a manual safety response plan to a comprehensive digital platform.

Sharing Critical Information

Keeping the information in our flip charts up-to-date is just one piece of the implementation. However, it has a direct tie to the information that is important to emergency responders. For example, if there is an emergency at night, first responders armed with this platform will know who to call if they need to reach someone at the Intermediate Unit facilities because the information is right at their fingertips.

Note: The Intermediate Unit covers 13 school districts and is covered by three different police departments and fire stations.

The software provides a way to share the information with all the first responders in various jurisdictions and keep that information up to date. It’s also a two-way street, the contact information that I have for police and fire chiefs needs to be up to date, too. First responders will be able to update their contact information in real time. It will be a continuous process and commitment from all parties involved.

Taking Your Time with the Rollout

Implementing new safety and security software takes time and committee participation and signoff. In addition to servicing the educational needs of children, our Intermediate Unit serves as a place for districts to become organized with various efforts. At a monthly Emergency Preparedness meeting, we invited school safety and security vendors to present their solution to the districts. This software was by far the most robust solution. We were sold and thus began our security overhaul and implementation journey.

However, we are certainly not rushing the process. I feel it’s important to have it as populated as possible with information that will work for them [staff and first responders] before implementation. For example, I could have rolled out the floor plans a few weeks ago, but I feel like the camera component is a big part of what the first responders will love. If you roll it out too early, users will acknowledge that the solution is great but that it’s missing information, which is why it must be as complete as possible before you roll it out to the masses.

If you are going to make it useable and functional, you can estimate a three- to six-month rollout. Regardless of the excitement generated from this solution and enthusiasm for it, we owe it to all involved in this initiative to take our time and get it right. I look at this as long-term investment in the welfare of the Intermediate Unit. Implementation, in my opinion, will always be ongoing.

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