School lockdowns. Active shooter drills. Emergency evacuations. Fire drills. As an administrator in a K-12 school or district, you’re well aware of the need for efficient crisis management drills and procedures. As technology advances, you’re probably seeking solutions that promise to streamline communication, connect students and teachers in times of crisis, and give you valuable information to better plan for the future.
School safety apps and systems can help your school or district accomplish your safety goals. However, keep in mind that these apps all operate differently, utilize different technology, and provide different outcomes. To make the best choice possible, it’s important to understand key priorities in a school safety app, and see how your options stack up. Here’s what you should look for in a school safety app or system:
Isn’t just an App
In emergencies, things go wrong. Regardless of the absolute best intentions, unpredictable situations can arise — what if someone forgets their phone? Only has access to a laptop? Needs to use a student’s phone? With ordinary native apps, this emergency-ready flexibility isn’t always possible. Let’s quickly break down the difference between a native app and a progressive web app:
- Native apps are limited to certain devices, whereas progressive web apps (PWA) can be utilized across devices
- Native apps need to be downloaded from an app store, while a PWA is delivered through the web
- PWA’s use pre-caching to ensure that the app is always up-to-date
- PWA’s don’t require different versions for Android vs. Apple devices
When it comes to school safety apps, it’s clear that a progressive web app will always have the edge over a native app in an emergency situation. For example, apps like Ruvna are designed to function across any available devices, offering both native apps and PWAs. This means that if a teacher forgets their phone, they can easily use a student’s phone, a tablet, a laptop, or any other internet-connected device to check-in students and ensure the safety of all. At the end of the day, a school safety app can’t just be an app — it has to be adaptable to emergency situations, no matter what goes wrong.
In general, passwords are already a problematic subject in K-12 settings. According to Tech & Learning, schools waste thousands of hours managing passwords in classroom settings. Time spent struggling to recall separate passwords for dozens of online integrations would be better spent teaching, and creates an impediment to digital learning. Despite this, only 19% of schools have fully implemented SSO (Single Sign-On.)
Let’s extend this issue a little further, and apply it to school crisis management. In an emergency, the last thing teachers and administrators should worry about is whether or not they remember the password for their safety app. Even a routine drill, where the situation is a little more controlled, can be challenging — and passwords are hardly ever top of mind.
It’s important to find an app that enables integration with your school’s pre-existing technologies. When teachers can use their existing school login credentials to access crucial safety information, they can spend more of their time and energy ensuring student safety — and less time cycling through a slew of different passwords.
No Downloads Required
In this increasingly digital age, apps are taking up every bit of our phone space. In fact, the average smartphone user:
- Has more than 80 apps on their phone
- Uses close to 40 of those apps per month
- Spends nearly 3 hours in apps each day
With the number of apps we use on a daily basis skyrocketing, many users have limited space on their phones for new apps. When an app isn’t considered a “daily driver” for a user (i.e. their email app or messaging app), it’s the first thing people will delete when they need more space on their phones. And in the heat of the moment, the 1 or 2 minutes it takes to download an app can be absolutely critical.
To sidestep this issue, apps that function like Ruvna require no downloads from users. By using a web browser platform, Ruvna ensures that information will be readily accessible on any device — no matter how many apps are taking up space.
Enables Easy Communication
Emergencies happen. And when they happen, communication is key. And though schools are prioritizing communication more and more, imperfect systems can make for critical communication errors during a crisis. According to FEMA, communication between faculty and staff during an emergency should be considered an “essential function” of any emergency response plan. Gone are the days that walkie-talkies are the only option for communication during an emergency. Here are some non-negotiable elements your school safety app needs to deliver:
- Immediate messaging to every member of the staff during an emergency
- Clear direction in times of crisis
- Convey information without ever having to open classroom doors during an emergency
- Easy messaging access to school administrators at all times
- Staff-wide chat functions that allow rapid communication between teachers and staff
By integrating these functions into a school safety app, your administration can increase the efficacy of your emergency plans, help staff stay connected during crises and drills, and get rapid assistance when needed.
Helps to Identify Which Students are Safe
In drills and emergencies, student accountability is key. And in today’s run, hide, and fight evacuation events it can be more and more difficult to keep track of students during an emergency. Are all students in a classroom accounted for? Do any of them need help? Although taking attendance during classes is an everyday aspect of the job for teachers, keeping track of students in emergency situations is a more complicated endeavor.
A mandatory Incident Command System (ICS) ensures that school personnel are ready to step in to provide the initial response in an emergency situation, before police and medical emergency services arrive on the scene. To accomplish this, school safety apps need to be able to quickly and efficiently identify student safety at all times. Apps like Ruvna allow you to:
- Take attendance using any device
- Notify faculty immediately if any student needs help
- Show administrators a real-time view of which students are safe
- Flag students who are yet to be found, and those who need help
Using these tools, school personnel can act as a “bridge” to safety before law enforcement or medical services arrive on the scene. In a drill setting, these features simply promote best practices for safety and accountability.
Allows Online Document Storage
Whether you’re responding to an evacuation, a weather-related emergency, or an active shooter drill — no teacher should have to think about lugging a 3-ring binder or map of campus outside with them as they evacuate. At every stage in the process, the emphasis should remain on communicating with staff, accounting for students, and following procedures.
School safety apps with an all-in-one approach mean that all teachers need is one internet-connected device in order to ensure safety. Teachers will always be able to access school maps, plans, and safety procedures from the app, which saves valuable time and resources. In addition, outcomes from the drill, including any potential issues or bottlenecks, can be analyzed via an in-depth report after the event.
Is made specifically for K12
As a K12 administrator, you already know that managing safety systems presents a unique challenge in K-12 schools. Not only do you manage safety for different times of day — lunchtime, between classes, after-school programs, and sports events — but you also have to account for all the different teachers, faculty, staff, and administrators that make up your school or district.
In order for emergency preparations to flow as anticipated, you need to ensure that you’re choosing an app that, like Ruvna, is specifically geared for K-12. For example, does it have a system that can integrate seamlessly in with your pre-existing SIS programs? Can they provide support catered to the school district, and with an in-depth knowledge of your needs? Does their app sync with your current attendance platforms? When choosing to partner with a company, don’t shy away from asking some tough questions.
Safer Schools Start with Better Systems
Creating an effective school safety system is a huge undertaking in the K-12 sphere. When you consider the human elements alone — students, parents, teachers, administrators — organizing an efficient system takes time, effort, and careful policies. To bolster your efforts, make sure you choose a tech solution that offers ease of use, enables excellent communication, and is geared specifically for K-12 schools.
Ruvna’s school crisis and emergency management system is built for schools. Geared towards greater communication, it helps increase student accountability during drills and emergencies, helps guide teachers through lockdown procedures, and uses the best app technology to get it all done. To learn more, please visit our website or contact us today.