- Every moment is critical during a school emergency, and having the right tools is a must
- An emergency response app helped one school leader receive and deploy clear communication
I was in a meeting when I heard the sirens. I immediately excused myself and saw the first squad car screech to a halt in front of our doors and knew it was bad. The police department had just received a call saying there was an active shooter somewhere at Spanish Fork High School and two students were deceased.
As it turns out, we were the victim of a coordinated hoax that targeted schools throughout Utah and other states, but for the next 24 minutes, this was our reality and as principal, I had to act. My emotions almost got the better of me; not only do I care deeply about each and every one of our 1,469 students, I also have a daughter who was in class just down the hall. I almost lost my motor skills but was able to pull my phone from my pocket to instantly lock down the school with the push of a button and watch our emergency plan unfold almost flawlessly before my eyes.
To fully understand the importance and power of that simple act, we need to take a step back. I have been the school’s principal for four years. Although we had published an emergency plan and conducted drills four or five times every year, from day one, I felt there was something off or missing from those plans. We had the standard procedures and instructions for locking classrooms, counting students and making announcements on the PA system, but nothing that would help us know what is happing in the moment, coordinate actions between law enforcement and school administrators or communicate with teachers and staff to effectively manage the chaos.
A few months ago, I was approached by a former student who wanted to introduce me to a technology called AEGIX AIM (Active Incident Management) that other schools have implemented to address the very challenges I was worried about. We received approval from the district to install and pilot the software. As fate would have it, we finished rolling it out and conducted staff training on it exactly one week before the active shooter hoax was perpetrated.