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Safety Drills that Work: Practicing Safety without Frightening Students





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During this on-demand event, Kevin Wellborn, Assistant Principal for Bonham Elementary Schools tells us about how his district is utilizing CrisisGo to facilitate realistic safety drills that are quick and efficient. Think your school can conduct multiple successful safety drills in under 15 minutes with over 500 kids? Kevin's can, and if you watch this presentation, you can learn how to achieve this kind of safety success too.


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Hello, everyone. Welcome to today's event titled “Safety Drills that Work: Practicing Safety without Frightening Students. I'm Greg Peterson content manager for CrisisGo and I'll be your moderator. During today's event will be focusing on the importance of utilizing technologically enhanced safety drills to help prevent emergencies and prepare school staff and students for making the appropriate responses during a crisis. If you have any questions throughout the presentation, I welcome you to submit those via the questions panel. We’ll be conducting a short Q&A session at the end of today's presentation.

Our guest speaker today is Kevin Wellborn the Assistant Principal for Reagan Elementary School for Abilene Independent School District in Texas. His school district is currently using CrisisGo to instantly communicate with staff through a unified safety channel on their mobile devices, facilitate detailed safety drills that can realistically imitate potential emergencies without frightening students, and review objective drill data generated by automated post drill reports. Kevin is here to discuss how CrisisGo has helped their emergency prevention efforts specifically through safety drills. So, without further delay, I'll let Kevin take it from here.

Good afternoon. I was going to go through just some of the ways that we've used CrisisGo here at Reagan. Last year I was at another elementary school that was little bit larger so and had a completely different layout. Building, age of building, everything was very different and so I hope to kind of show how the app or through the program is able to be modified and to specifically meet the needs of your campus. But so to me the most important thing for any drill is that we obviously get to practice the drill and for it to be the most effective is this for to be as close to the real thing without frightening students, you know, and that's always been possible with, you know, some drills you can do that.

Whereas others you can't get exactly like it would be on a real and relevant and I'll talk more about that. But also I think it's been it's really valuable to get feedback from the participants. But also, you know some data some things about different ways of getting better.

And so the feedback aspects of CrisisGo are outstanding and it's very easy to monitor and communicate in real-time with the message board or the messaging between managers and participant is really easy to use and I kind of show some of that on the toolbar or the app it pops up. It comes from the bottom of your screen you click on it and pop that just looks like this and so for Reagan, you have this messaging this is length for here is one of ours that helps check the building after we just on the fourth had an evacuation drill, you can see where people are able to communicate.

You know, why they're not, you know, if they're not on campus that day they still get the alert and they can communicate back. The great thing about the message portion is that I can see that as a manager. So we have four managers on campus and you can designate as many managers you’d like but I'm the only one that can see what they say. And then if I want to message back I can message to all of them and it pops up on their screen or I can change it to where I'm just sending to a specific person and or if I can click on the message and reply directly to them and there not, not everyone else is seeing what you're saying to them.

So if there's an emergency with an emergency you can communicate with them and you're not sharing with everybody. Again, it goes to that being able to not add to the panic or the crisis by you know over sharing information if there's something going on. So that's a really nice aspect of the feedback. Then you also so and then that's all in real time and they can see you can see the what's happening on their ends. You can see, you know, they're communicating to you check-ins and things like that. So the check-ins are actually one of my favorite features about CrisisGo they can be completely modified to suit your need.

You can create them for anything. You don't have to connect it to an alert. You can just send a check in. I've used them different times where I've done some trainings. I'll just create a check in with some different options and you send it out. It doesn't have an alarm or anything like that has a little chime that goes with it. And then you can leave it open as long as you want and they can reply it's kind of like a little mini survey so to speak and then they can be totally modified.

So back in the toolbox, you have your pre-created ones that you know, if you create them in advance and when you open it, you can see the different options and then you can add a new option if you think something if there's a reason that day that you needed a new option you just type it in and so you can change them specifically to that drill and so for me the my previous campus was that is a newer campus and it had a safety corridor. So the entire campus is moving to the same spot. Reagan is built-in more in pods and so you're not all in one place. So the check-in was slightly different.

They're not going to all just say I'm safe, you know, some are going to be in the classroom some and so really the check in aspects are going to be or even greater here because you know if we're faced with a tornado which is you know is a real possibility in Texas. We would not be wanting to go outside to the next pod to check on people and so we can keep people from moving around as much by communicating and then also it doesn't require that they type in a whole lot of things and so you have streamline the checking process so that they are saying, you know, just exactly what it is that they're need to say and then if there is something else that they need to say, they can type it into the message and it comes to you through the chat and so you can see there's also a button there to create and you can just create a new one right there on the fly and so it’s great. I think the check-ins are just really great. Just in the way that you can you can change them up to be specific to what you need them to be.

You know our we'll talk more about the active threat here. When you have, especially on an elementary campus, you have kids moving around and they're not always with their class. And so trying to communicate that in crisis is can be very difficult where teacher may select they need to write, you know whole paragraph about exactly where each kid is with the check-in they can kind of skip that and get right, you know, they can get the bulk of the information out and then if there's more information you need you can start asking for it.

The pre and post drill report are very useful to and it kind of you know, you always have in any situation like that you using an app or electronic you're going to have somebody afterwards that says well, I didn't get the drill. I didn't get the message and so we have contingencies where teachers are part of our procedures or checking as you leave and other people are reacting if their not. You make sure that they understand what's going on and things but you know with the with the drill report, this is a post drill report.

You can see kind of going down you can kind of see why someone may not have gotten it you can see whether they were online or if they got it on their PC or if they got on their iOS device or on their Android so you have all the different you can see that and then you can see who was not on a device or anything. And so a lot of times you see a number like the check-ins you had 26 people unreported 29 that did report. Well, then you start afterwards you can kind of cross reference some of these people that aren't reported. Why do they not report? A lot of them are off campus. Some of them are cafeteria people. They're not responsible for student. Or they don't carry their phones with them regularly. And so you kind of then figure out exactly why they may not have checked in and then the other one if you're more of a visual person, I guess, in the console you can go to your for example, the check-ins if you want more specific information about check-in you go to the dashboard click on check-in click on view all event and you can go all the way back through your the event that you had I guess that year or even longer sometimes and so click on action and then you can see, you know, the pie chart and some other things and then you can see some of the messages that came along with it. Like the student has the this the teacher at works in speech, she had students that belong Bartley and Sidonia. So we then you start kind of figuring out and so if you have kids that aren't accounted for a lot of that is already done. Like this teacher’s class is in PE, so when she checks in she's clear, but she doesn’t have her students.

So you start seeing kind of some of that information and then afterwards you kind of can go to some of those that you're not if you're not sure why they didn't check in you can kind of get that and a lot of times I get messages so and so next to me their phones not working or this person they're saying is offline. And so they check in through the chat, but having three or four do that versus your entire campus trying to send you text messages. It's so much easier to the check-in because my first year in this position we didn't have CrisisGo and so we were doing a lot of that check-in aspect, but we were doing it through text message. We ask them.

They all have their cell phones and we said, you know check in with us when you are safe. And so, you know, then you have people on new phones and say you're just seeing a phone number. You're not sure who it is. It just it got really confusing and you're trying to kind of put it all back together through multiple texts. And so you get a clearer picture because it's all right there and but you also maintain the privacy because it's only coming to you.

So that’s just kind of in general the feedback aspects of CrisisGo. I think a really key part of it. So then I kind of mentioned some of that before having CrisisGo when it came to practice. So that second piece of the drill aspects is, you know wanting to be a good practice or authentic practice.

Before CrisisGo we would have different methods of sounding different alarms. So like, you know, you had the fire alarm which is very loud. And you know, I mean it's piercing and so yeah that one for fire alarms. Nobody can miss that one, but then to do a shelter alarm for weather or something like that we would have to use our phone and so you have to find the number about you know, the intercom through the phone.

You dial a number you have dialed certain number for that alarm and then you have to switch over so that you could then do a voice announcement. And so it was time consuming. It was confusing and then you didn't have any way to sounding alarm really for something like an active threat or an active shooter where you're you know the idea of stopping and dialing a number to bring up your intercom is just yeah, that's just not going to happen. And so we really didn't have a way of sending an alarm for an active threat. We train teachers to use their ears and their judgment and if they hear something that sounds like shooting or they hear things that that raised an alarm then they needed to react and so that was that was really difficult for teachers to kind of wrap their brains around I guess and feel comfortable doing and then you also had aspects of the limited number of people that could sound the alarm and it all came through the office and we've learned from things like Parkland shooting things like that where there are multiple opportunities to call the alarm call an alert before, you know early on in that that were missed and so having as many people you can safely give permission to call that alert. It's really important with when time is so crucial and giving as much warning to your teachers and students as possible.

So then you know during a drill there really was no efficient way of communicating we tried text before that there really was no other way when we would do drills. We often used the different color cards. Red and yellow and green and teachers would hold those up. It was confusing when you had a sub because they weren't quite sure what they're supposed to do. And so it just was not a very efficient way. And so, you know, you had somebody hold up a yellow you knew that there was a need and so then yet you go to them and find out and then, you know, you're trying to remember names and thing with that and so again, you know, that's all replaced by that chat feature and the check in. And then really the big one is the active threat drills and you know before CrisisGo you could do a fire drill. That was pretty much like the real thing, you know, we if you didn't tell the teachers and you didn't announce the time sound the alarm and they would move and so that's pretty close to the real thing and then same with the shelter in place. You could do pretty close to the real thing.

There really was no way of doing an active threat drill in a safe way that didn't frightened children and also making it an authentic and so what we did do is we would send kind of an email the day before with a time and tell him that this time you're going to open your email and then the email we would have a map with an active threat marked on the map and so then they would have to react and so there's delay there was a delay, you know just in that because they're opening an email and there haven't you know, and then there's always those issues of emails not opening or attachments not opening you had the trust the teachers not to open it before because you had this in you know about five six minutes prior just to make sure that it didn't get hung up in the in the web I guess and so there was always Is just that delay and also just that you had to trust the teachers weren't going to like look in advance because again the most important thing about active threat drill, is that decision-making moment. And so trying to create that decision-making moment for teachers making it authentic with again without frightening anyone just really wasn't possible to do.

And so and then you had the aspect of the really was no way of sounding the alarm and so teachers that first year. I mean I was that was the most common question. What will how will we know if in real how will we know and there really wasn't an answer for them because you know, I wasn't going to tell them yeah, I'm going to get on the phone and you know dial in a number and dial in a code and then say, you know hide there's a an active threat so it really there really wasn't a way to practice in a way that replicated the real thing without you know, making the news for you know, I've seen new stories of schools that have brought in people to active threats and I just think that as potential for traumatic experiences for a lot of people and I don't know that that is appropriate we've seen effects of drills over the last decade or so the fact that they've had on children and so trying to mitigate some of that in our drills and being aware of that it is scary. And even when we're not doing anything that we would think is scary. There are some kids that still find it frightening.

So if I have a specific story of a frightened student that I want to share. So if I forget be sure to ask. So with CrisisGo we gained the that all alerts were sent from the app. We still use our fire alarm because again, it is loud and you cannot miss it. Occasionally. I will not use it and just kind of test CrisisGo to make sure that people are still sensitive to the alarms and chimes that come from it. I will call an alert or call the evacuation drill with just the app and not use the school-wide fire alarm but you're able to kind of have multiple people. I've had teachers called alarm, I’ve had lots of different people call alarm just so they can kind of see it and I have that experience and knowing that they can do it from their phone.

And so then you or your district and select different alarm sounds I remember the first time we use CrisisGo. I think we had the same siren in of them and we got a lot of feedback that sound was kind of frightening for an evacuation and so the district has we now have the same alarm sound across the district, but they've chosen some of the less ominous sounding alarms for some of the less ominous drills and we save the siren for active threat because we want it to want it to be heard. And so then we now can share the most important information quickly and then the real-time communications.

So active threat drills are probably one of the biggest things gained through the app or through CrisisGo. So the way I use it for our drills is we will send out an alert of the location of the threat and you have a little you know, when you send alert it asks you if you want to add a message and so we'll just in that message will type where the threat is in as few as words as possible. And then teachers have to make a decision. And so we really encourage them. You know, we change it up.

We don't use the same location and teachers have to you know, make that decisions to avoid or are they going to deny and defend and so I think that aspect that decision making is we've seen in news stories so often that it really comes down to the decision of the teacher or the person in charge of whether to avoid or to deny and defend and both I try to communicate to teachers that the right answer is depends on the location of the threat and the students that you have and a lot of factors and so we don't want to tell them you do it this way every time and so but we also one of the great things about doing it this way is in doing it through CrisisGo it allows room for mistakes. I tell teachers all the time, if you make a decision and your wrong, well the time to be wrong is in a drill.

And so that gives us a lot of opportunities to kind of see how much time do we really have things like that. This last time with our active threat in July designated a couple teachers because again being a new campus, I wasn't sure about the time and so some of those classes that were a little further away I wasn't sure if they would run, avoid, or if they would deny and defend, I ask them to try to avoid I said see I just I told that teacher in advance that no matter where that threat is, I want you to leave and that way we can kind of get an idea of how much time do we really have and so that we you know, all of that is valuable information. So I try to encourage teachers not too worried about getting along.

And so we have various staff members that we start at that location that we sent out and we walk from there and the whole goal is not to be seen and we tell teachers, you know, historically shooters and things of that they've shot at what they see then I don't like barriers, they don't like roadblock, and so the whole idea has just for them to avoid being seen and to get as far away from the danger as they possibly can and do it safely. And so with that we try to communicate that in to them and then they package that message to their students.

Because they know there differences and being an elementary school you have kids that are five years old all the way up to 10 and 11. And so that the it's a really big difference in what they can handle and what they need to know. So I was telling the story I had this year early on in the year of I was informed of a kindergartner that was terrified of the alarms and he they won he was asking a teacher about drills about fire drills and really concerned the sound all of it was just really frightening to him.

And so the day before the drill or that morning I bought him in, and had him come to my office and I just played the alarms that he would hear for him just from the from that console and so that he could hear him in advance and hear what’s it going to sound like and then just kind of walk them through all of it and that seemed to help but then whenever it came time to do the active threat drill again, you know, he was concerned and his teacher said she would handle it. And so the next day I happened to see him at lunch. He was real excited to tell me that his class had won the hide-and-seek drill. And so I kind of asked him and he said yeah, you didn't find us so we won the hide-and-seek drill.

And so again, it's you know it’s important to do that and have that student go through a drill and practice it and really all he needs to know is that he needs to hide and follows teachers instructions and he wins and so he was really excited about the drill after that and was really excited that he that they won. So I was really impressed that teacher and her thoughtfulness and her creativity and kind of repackaging this active threat drill for her students.

So one other little thing I wanted to kind of just brag on to their teachers did such a great job. This was last year. We kind of thought of it as like the ultimate drill and we had two drills scheduled for the week and I had this idea to try to put them together and then in this kind of hypothetical where you evacuated and then you need to come back into to a shelter in place and so we kind of gave them limited information just basically you have an evacuation drill and told them make sure you're using your CrisisGo app and send them out. And then once they were out and out the shelter in place, you know called back in through a reverse evacuation and then about halfway through that we switched it to a shelter in place and using the check-ins and then and seeing you know, just how well can we move all these all these people and so that's like I said, it's a big campus and we had 550 students and that which is which good size I think and we had about all of them out all the way out all the way back in and into the safety corridor in less than 15 minutes and that was using the only communication we use was through the CrisisGo app and then that we did use the fire alarm the really loud awful alarm that we cut it off as soon as they're out and then all the communication after that was through the CrisisGo software and app and so that school has some special programs that has a behavior, two behavior classes with severe behaviors and also has a class, two classes of students with severe special needs that are very limited mobility. And so all that being able to move all those kids and do it in a safe way, you know that comes from the teachers being committed to the safety and we also start practicing using that every time that we had a drill and we started using it early on in the year and did some different practices after school where we just did a check-in or just did things like that where the teachers are really using the app and getting comfortable with it and being familiar with it. And so that's really the two big things for me were the feedback and then the ability to practice an authentic way and really especially in that active threat drill. That seems to be the one that that has us scratching our heads I guess is the best way to practice it and it's hardest to get authentic and make it as useful as possible.

It's alright. That's all I've got in that regard.

Thanks, Kevin. That's a really great testament to the power of safety drills. We really appreciate you sharing and thanks again for your district's commitment to bolstering school safety. We’re going to give Kevin just a second to catch his breath and maybe have a drink of water. I want to quickly remind everyone that if you have any questions, you can submit those via the questions panel and also like to follow up a bit on what Kevin was saying about CrisisGo’s safety drill management capabilities. As we've seen today, safety drills are critical for teaching staff and students how to navigate emergencies but for many schools, safety drills can become a hollow routine and some newer active shooter drilling methods can actually upset students, especially younger ones as Kevin pointed out. With numerous safety drills that need to be completed in buildings at different times, it can be difficult to keep track of when scheduled drills and what drills been completed. CrisisGo’s drill management feature allows you to automate drill scheduling, drill monitoring, drill data review, and drill reporting all from an online dashboard because we know how important school safety drills are we built our system to specifically help organizations focus on drill skills and safety improvement, not the post-event paperwork. So now in Kevin's had a second to catch his breath. Let's move on to the Q&A.

Let's see what questions we have. First question, how do you keep your drills fresh and educational for teachers, staff, and students?

Well, one of the as I mentioned one of the things that I that we do is I don't like with evacuation. That's the one you do the most often here in Texas. We have we do that once a month. Where's the others are one semester right now, there's some talk of changing that but so with the evacuation sometimes I will use the alarm the big, you know, the really loud ear piercing alarm and it sometimes we'll just use the app and just so that they're kind of having to listen for both and also, you know, it's nice to have a break from the really loud one. But you know, there's so many different aspects of in a situation where you may not be able to pull the alarm quickly and things like that.

So I just think it's important to do that and then you know with the with the active threat we change up the locations of the threat we can you can even type in. I know some campuses that have been different, you know, like it more specific scenarios and then had teachers kind of react to that and then you can you know, then doing things like the last drill that I shared was where we surprise them with some extra information.

So I think that you know, You have that option with the features that come with CrisisGo. Being able to send out new information. Whereas prior you could do a text everybody and you know, I taught for 12 years. So, you know, 15 years ago, we didn't have you know, people aren't carrying around cell phones until you were just kind of listening for an alarm and you know two bells meant to come in and three bells meant this and so you had is sometimes confusing but with the CrisisGo you can send out new information so you can you know, throw them curveball and change things up on.

Wonderful and next question. Obviously quality drills are the most important, but you think the speed of drills is also important?

Yeah, I think that. That's one of the things that you can kind of get you definitely get from the CrisisGo because you end the alert and you send you know the enclose the check-in and send that message to come back in and say you have them you can look at exact down to the second how long that all lasted. I think that having them, you know be more efficient is maybe a better way of describing and then then speed because I think that you know, you don't want anyone getting hurt because they're you know running out and really most evacuations, you know, you're going to have a little bit of a warning. Definitely in a shelter in place, you know, we have like for us again tornadoes and we have you know, usually have quite a bit of a warning, you know, that's not always the case, but you know you again you have time and said kind of teaching that to be efficient so that you're not wasting time and that everybody knows what's going on. We're still trying to figure out the best way to communicate to the subs right now. It's kind of like, you know, you so and so in your hall and you need to be aware of them and make sure they know what's going on. So yeah speed is important, but I would say efficiency is maybe more important.

Perfect. I see we just have one last question. So if anyone has a question, feel free to pop it in while we work on this one. Last question so far, how has drill data helped you improve your safety protocols?

Well, I think that one of the things is, you know, you ask teachers. Let me know if you see something and so we have a safety team in each area of the campus is represented each grade levels represented. And so, you know, you'd always ask for that feedback like it was there a door that didn't work or things like that and you know human nature as if it's not real easy. We can convince yourself. It's not important. And so I think I have seeing a difference in the amount of feedback, I get, you know, just a message, you know back. Hey we weren't able to get out or you know, my wifi doesn't work once we get this far away from campus and things like that that you don't really have a way of knowing until you're in it and so lots of little things like that that we were able to change. I remember at a previous campus in an active threat, the threat was really pretty far away and so we had our 5th grade were trying to avoid but you had four classes trying to go out one door and it kind of bottleneck.

And they weren't able, you know we walked up on them and you know, they kind of looked at us. And so we you know, we realized then that we have to consider not just where we are from the threat but we have to consider the exit and how much you know how fast can we get out that and where they could have gone the other way down the hall and might of had actually end up more time because of the not as many trying to go out one spot. So things like that have helped and then also, you know looking at the post drill report and the pre-drilled report, I can go to those teacher and say hey have you updated your phone?

Have you logged into CrisisGo recently and making sure that they are because I can see like oh you didn't get the message because you hadn't logged in in however long and so that kind of thing helps and then also, getting them used to sharing that where their students are and who they have. I'll see one that says all clear or they have all their students all clear. And I know that their student is in the nurse and so with the nurse and so, you know being able to go back to hey, did you have all of your students are well know I was missing one, but all the kids are with me or saying and so trying to like just being able to kind of create those conversations of what information do we really need in the office from them as we try to make sure everyone is safe. We need to know like if you're don't have all your kids aware that student so being able to you know, just trying to encourage them to give that feedback has been something that able to do by looking at that check-in information.

Well it looks like someone placed another question. Do you ever practice drills that start with a teacher to test administrators’ reactions?

We haven't but we've talked about it. I you know, I think that's something that I think in my last campus. I had been there for a couple of years and I think that they probably would have been up for it. I think being a new campus, we're still getting to know each other I guess until I don't know if they would be up for doing that as much but I think that's definitely a worthy practice and something we have talked about doing an unscheduled doing a drill that the teacher schedule that we are not aware of and having that experience of what we've got to react and go because you know, we have our contingencies and are things that we know that we're going to do in a real one but oftentimes we don't get to do those because we are acting you know, we were posing as the threat. Or we're checking for everyone out checking for hallways and watching or monitoring the drill. So I think that's definitely worthy practice.

All right, that looks like that's it for questions. Once again, thank you all for attending and participating. If you would like to learn more about CrisisGo and how we can help make your district and school safer. You can visit us online or follow us on social media. We’ll be sending a follow-up email soon with a link to this recording in case you'd like to share it with your colleagues and friends. Enjoy the rest of your day and thank you very much.