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Why Every School Needs an Upgraded Emergency Response System

Schools are among the most important resources our society has. They are key to providing the next generations with the skills, knowledge, and values that help everyone to thrive. Maintaining a safe environment is not just a practical part of achieving this but also an ethical responsibility schools have to students and teachers alike.

An emergency response system is one of the tools that can help here. It ensures that stakeholders get alerted to problems, can communicate about them, and adapt effectively. One of the ways technology in schools is improving education is by providing the equipment and infrastructure that keeps these systems functioning well. Times and technology change, though. Occasionally, every school needs an emergency response system that is upgraded with relevant tools and practices.

Evolving Challenges

Why does every school need an upgraded emergency response system? The simple fact of the matter is that the challenges of emergencies are constantly evolving. This involves a range of areas, including:

  • Natural disasters: Extreme weather events and other natural disasters are becoming more frequent. There have also been changes in the severity of these events, with more expected as climate change progresses. This can put schools at increasing risk of an emergency that requires evacuation and response, or even involve them becoming safe zones for community members. This means that schools need communication systems and protocols that are suitable for the likely natural emergencies they’ll face.
  • Human risks: Schools are facing evolving risks related to human activity. There’s the desperately sad yet inescapable reality that the number of school shooting incidents have risen exponentially in recent years. There may also be other issues such as health risks — as with the recent COVID-19 pandemic — and crime. Ensuring that robust communications, through the use of text messages, emails or other emergency alert systems, that help schools quickly respond to adverse human activity is a must.
  • Cybersecurity risks: School databases hold a variety of important personal information, including medical, disciplinary and financial records of minors. This makes these databases particularly valuable to cybercriminals, as they can hold this information for ransom or use it to commit identity theft.

This is why, as a technology professional, you need to begin your risk assessment of your school’s emergency response with a review of its current profile. By understanding what the common issues are and how communication tools and technology-based protocols can address them, your school can make more informed and relevant decisions about its upgrades.

Adopting Clearer Communication Protocols

There are various types of communication technology and practices available. This provides a great deal of choice to schools, but just investing in as many as possible can make matters more confusing. Instead, when upgrading, it’s vital to assess the clarity of your current communication protocols and take steps to ensure the right tools and processes are in place.

A good place to start here is by reviewing how well the school addresses the key communication priorities during emergencies. These include:

  • Maintaining facility security: For both shooting incidents and natural disasters, schools must maintain security by having constant visibility of conditions in affected areas. Upgrading the school systems to combine both video surveillance and two-way radio contact can be a practical approach here. This allows staff to see what the challenges are and communicate with one another about the appropriate actions at all times.

    Wherever possible, the cameras in these systems should be Internet Protocol (IP) cameras that provide greater detail and higher frame rates than normal closed-circuit systems. They can also be combined with software that automatically spots unusual activity, providing alerts to staff so they can respond swiftly. As an IT professional, you should work to ensure that these cameras are protected from hackers.

  • Accessing clear communication channels: One of the priorities in any emergency is for staff and other stakeholders to know what channels to use to gain information and provide alerts. This could include an automated text messaging and email system, but also on-the-ground communication methods such as radio systems. Solid communication protocols are also needed to message parents and other stakeholders after an emergency response or data breach.

As an IT professional, you can work with other staff members to educate them on how digital communications systems can be leveraged to keep themselves and students safe. You may also be able to work with departments in the school to develop physical tracking and checkout systems for radios so that it is always clear where these valuable pieces of equipment are.

Establishing Backups

Upgrading the school emergency response system is not just about investing in new equipment and protocols. It’s also about creating a system that is prepared for almost any eventuality. There may be times when the primary communication devices and systems fail or aren’t appropriate. Establishing backup systems is vital for keeping everyone safe.

Spare equipment

Having at least a spare for every communication device in your emergency response protocol can be essential here. Ensure all staff know where the spares are located and how to access them.

Alternative networks

Your school may not always be able to rely on the infrastructure that supports its communication protocols. Cellular networks may be affected by weather and internet service disrupted by cyberattacks. A satellite broadband network, like Starlink, can be an effective backup connection. This low-earth orbit system helps to ensure reliable connectivity with latency that isn’t dissimilar to terrestrial broadband. As a result, when regular connections are disrupted, schools can shift to a satellite service to ensure everyone can keep in constant communication and receive advice from authorities.


By upgrading your school’s emergency response system, you can utilize the most relevant tools and practices to keep students and teachers safe. This should include planning for the types of emergencies each school is likely to face, alongside adopting tools that support key comms priorities. It’s important to remember that tech and emergencies will continue to evolve. Regular reassessments and gradual upgrades can help keep the school up-to-date, alongside being more cost-effective than less frequent complete overhauls.

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