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Use Cases from Bemidji Area Schools

Using Safety Technology to Improve Emergency Communication and Response


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Bemidji Area Schools is a small district located in Bemidji, Minnesota, the same county as Red Lake Indian Reservation. The district maintains a close relationship with the Red Lake School District and would send buses to the reservation daily to bring students to their district. After the tragic Red Lake Senior High School shooting in 2005, Bemidji Area Schools needed to strengthen their school safety measure to keep students safe.

Before using CrisisGo, their safety protocols and resources were only available on paper, many of their departments had their own safety plans, and they were relying on twoway radios for emergency communication.

The health and safety staff from Bemidji Area Schools concluded CrisisGo's digital safety and crisis response platform would solve their school safety needs for emergency communication and response.

Bemidji has used CrisisGo in at least three emergencies:

  • Bus rollover with air evacuation
  • Head-on bus collision while out of town
  • Physical fight amongst high schoolers

Use Case 1: Bus Rollover with Air Evacuation

The Situation

While making its way through a routine route for Bemidji Area Schools, a bus carrying students was involved in a major accident. The bus was struck by a driver who had driven through a stop sign. The collision caused the bus to rollover into a ditch. Students were on the bus when it was hit, and two children were trapped inside. Two helicopters were needed to airlift the trapped students.

At the time of the incident, the school safety administrator and the transportation director for Bemidji Area Schools were both driving buses on the other side of town. The situation required numerous first responders, district administrators, and school staff be notified.

Crisis Response

Greg Liedl, the transportation director and CrisisGo administrator at the time, heard about the emergency and quickly sent an alert through the CrisisGo mobile app. Liedl let the entire district know about the bus rollover, and he subsequently unloaded his bus of elementary school students before heading to the scene.

According to Liedl, the school transportation personnel headed to the scene with a spare bus. School administrators and nursing staff headed to the scene as well. Liedl indicated that one potential challenge was that some district staff members where in a meeting with their phones on silent. By using CrisisGo's alert, Liedl was able to ensure that the administrators received an audible alert on their smartphones to let them know about the emergency.

Liedl stated, "I go to my phone and hit the alert, and I let them know that the sound means that the situation is serious, and you need to deal with the situation.” Through the use of CrisisGo to communicate, Bemidji Area Schools was able to successfully coordinate an emergency response to the situation.

Lessons Learned

When asked about the value of casting a wider net of communication to the entire district for a big emergency, Liedl said that CrisisGo informed everyone who needed to know, and it showed them that it was a serious situation.

CrisisGo assisted Bemidji Area Schools in this situation by:

  • Allowing every appropriate stakeholder to be notified.
  • Ensuring that administrators in a meeting would receive the alert.
  • Providing a unified communication channel for emergency response.

Use Case 2: Out of Town Bus Crash

The Situation

While a school bus for Bemidji Area Schools was transporting a high school extracurricular team, it was involved in a head-on collision. A young driver had been texting and driving when their vehicle crossed the center-line of the roadway and struck the bus.

Faced with a bus that was rendered nonoperational, potential injuries, and a geographical distance obstacle, Bemidji Area Schools needed a way to notify all relevant staff while coordinating a quick and orderly response to the situation.

Crisis Response

The bus driver involved in the collision informed Greg Liedl, transportation director and CrisisGo administrator for Bemidji Area Schools, about the incident.

Liedl reacted quickly by sending Alerts to the safety communication groups for the high school and district administrators through the CrisisGo app. Liedl was able to instantly inform all the appropriate stakeholders that the crash occurred, everyone involved was okay, and coordinate a response.

Liedl stated, "The nice part about it is there is a one-button push. I don’t have to hunt down everyone and tell them what is going on. That’s the really nice thing about CrisisGo.” Through the use of CrisisGo, Bemidji Area Schools was able to instantly notify the appropriate parties about the situation and communicate a response plan.

Lessons Learned

Liedl noted the value of being able to easily keep all relevant stakeholders in the loop when an emergency occurs. For instance, the District's HR Director had been at home when the incident occurred. He heard the alert, checked his phone, saw that it was a real emergency, and was immediately caught up to speed.

CrisisGo assisted Bemidji Area Schools in this situation by:

  • Granting the district the ability to immediately notify stakeholders.
  • Providing a unified communication channel to keep all necessary parties in the loop.
  • Allowing the the safety team to contact and communicate with multiple parties all at once.

Use Case 3: High School Fight

The Situation

A bus driver for Bemidji Area Schools had pulled up to the backside of a high school building, and the driver observed a fight in progress.

There were still students on the bus, which prohibited the driver from exiting the bus to respond to the situation. To further complicate matters, Bemidji's automated phone system for the high school, like many school phone systems, requires callers to dial extensions to reach staff, and if the staff member is away from their desk, it can result in a communication dead-end and force the caller to repeat the process to get a hold of someone.

Crisis Response

CrisisGo Administrator Greg Liedl informed that the bus driver radioed to Liedl's office to let them know the specific location of the fight. Liedl's office then had to contact staff at the high school to let them know about the situation.

To cut down on response time, Liedl quickly pulled out his phone and sent an Alert to the high school safety communication group to let them know about the fight and the underlying details.

Liedl stated, "What was interesting is that several of the hall monitors, the staff, and the school got the call about the fight on the two-way radio, but the school resource officer was in the cafeteria with all the noise. He didn't hear the two-way radio. His phone started to go off, and he got the notification through CrisisGo."

Through the use of CrisisGo, Bemidji Area Schools was able to make sure the right people where able to receive critical safety information.

Lessons Learned

Not only was Bemidji Area Schools able to quickly and effectively transmit safety information to key stakeholders, Liedl was able to facilitate the response while being several miles away from the incident.

CrisisGo assisted Bemidji Area Schools in this situation by:

  • Allowing staff to instantly notify the proper staff members of a serious incident.
  • Making sure that all key stakeholders received the information about the incident.
  • Providing a more effective means of communicating emergency information.


Communication is Critical for Safety

As demonstrated by Bemidji Area Schools' use cases, communication is often the first step in responding to a crisis. This step is often more challenging than it might seem, as most response efforts require multiple stakeholders to be notified and engaged in safety communication.

Though each situation was different and presented unique challenges, a common thread in all of the Bemidji Area Schools use cases is that an efficient and effective response required a communication platform that would allow numerous people to be notified and connected through an ongoing emergency response dialogue.

Safety Requires Practice

CrisisGo played a vital role in the emergency alerting and response for the use cases Bemidji Area Schools experienced, but the success Bemidji Area Schools experienced would not have been possible without their practice and familiarization of the safety resources at their disposal.

Like any valuable tool or resource, the user must know how to use it properly before it truly becomes effective. Bemdiji Area Schools demonstrated this value through their safety successes, which were the result, in part, of their diligent practice with the CrisisGo platform.

School Safety Needs to be Comprehensive

From the start of each incident to their resolution, Bemidji Area Schools was able to use CrisisGo throughout the entire process. Having a safety platform that empowers your prevention, response, and recovery efforts for school safety means that you can keep all your stakeholders on the same page while navigating emergencies from start to finish no matter where or when they occur.

CrisisGo's digital safety and crisis response platform empowers school safety through:

  • Streamlined safety communication that connects all stakeholders.
  • Audible emergency Alerts that can be automatically escalated to first responders.
  • Digital safety plans and resources to guide emergency response.
  • Safety tips and reporting tools to help prevent emergencies before they happen.
  • A safety awareness system to educate all stakeholders about safety risks and solutions.
  • Safety drill management capabilities to make safety drills easier while getting regular practice with the CrisisGo platform.

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