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Using Communication to Connect the Dots for School Safety





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Watch this on-demand presentation to hear Levaughn Smart, former member of law enforcement and the current Director of Security for Kirkwood School District discuss how his district uses CrisisGo to improve safety communication for each school and the district as a whole.


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Hello, everyone. Welcome to today's event titled "Using Communication to Connect the Dots for School Safety." I'm Greg Peterson, Content Manager for CrisisGo and I'll be your moderator. During today's event will be focusing on how putting an emphasis on safety communication can not only improve school safety, but also streamline your other school safety processes. 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 Levaughn Smart, Director of Security for Kirkwood School District in Missouri. His school district is using CrisisGo to utilize a mass communication system to stay connected with all their school buildings, provide staff with digital access to their emergency plans, and include First Responders in their safety communication. Levaughn is here to share his experience as a school safety director and former member of law enforcement. So without further delay, I’ll let Levaughn take it from here.

Hello, Greg, thank you. Our biggest thing here at Kirkwood. We came on with CrisisGo in 2014. And when I got here in the job in late 2013, we didn't have much in means of emergency operations plans, that was one of the first priorities we had to get going. Then within our limited buildings, we had zero communication for zero capability for two-way communication, very little awareness of emergency communication at all.

These are all those things, we did not have. Our emergency operations plan literally at that time was probably, I’ll say at best the five; an earthquake, active shooter, tornado, fire, and that was it. So we roughly had a book of four pages that meant pretty much nothing to anybody because it stayed attached to the back of the door. Vast majority of our staff in all of our buildings had no clue really what it said in the book. The only reason they took the book with them was so they had either a red panel or that green panel. So in doing that they would go out but now once we got outside with our book that we haven't opened and really don't know what it says doing. It has very minimal action steps. Now that we've stepped outside we had zero communication other than lifting up a red panel or green panel to let everybody know that we either had our children or we didn't have our children and that was the extent of the communication that was used up until the time we ran into CrisisGo.

As far as two-way communication district-wide that that wasn't even an idea. We did have two-way radios, but two-way radios only worked in the building which you were in. So we cover we're a smaller school district. Our whole city is 12 square miles and we literally cannot communicate from our high school to our furthest elementary school, which is no than a mile and a half or two miles away. So we had to try to figure out some way of doing it. As far as awareness in the communication piece. We knew absolutely nothing but that was one of the big things that we really had to get going. So when 2014 we happen to be at an event at a school seminar event and CrisisGo was presenting and the thing that really jumped out at us was the ability to help us with our emergency operations plans. That was the first thing on our list. That was a main priority. We had to get going right off the top to make sure that all the other things fall in line because a lot of plan you're pretty much dead in the water. So we sat we listen at that time. It was myself, my boss who's a CFO, then our Chief Communications officer. We were thinking about these things like why how do you think this CrisisGo platform will work? And at that time, I can't remember because it's the platform wasn't as robust as it is now, but it had those things that we needed those action steps, but that big piece like I said, was that minimal emergency operations plan that we had and how do we grow it so we can get it in the hands of everybody and when CrisisGo started talking about how they could do just that we're blown away. So we sat down we talked we brought some of the people in from CrisisGo. At that time CrissiGo was still a fledgling company. They were still trying to find their feet as well. So we kind of grew up together and watching them grow helped us grow and it helped us see what we did or did not know.

So as we went through those things we started to build our capacity and that's the biggest thing building our capacity. So if we start with just an emergency operations plan because that was the foundation that we were building everything on. That was it. That was a whole kit and caboodle there. Once we started doing that we started seeing all those other huge glaring gaps that we had and everything else. So communication even though that is we want to have that two-way communication what we learned is that communication prior to an emergency or crisis was important as well just as doing and during and after so what I mean by the communication prior to its putting that communication in a digital form, so anybody can retrieve that communication and know what it is there to do and that emergency operations plan that checklist now as we use started utilizing the checklist portion of CrisisGo we started seeing all the things that we can actually input because you can get more into a digital format than you can and hard copies. So we started creating lists for any imaginable scenario that we could come across. For example, we had just built a pool at that time. We had a new natatorium that was just built and all our chemicals were being mixed by a machine. So chlorine is coming. We've got hazmat suits back there in cases there's a chlorine leak, so we're thinking that might be something we also want to put in our emergency operation.

So we actually built out a checklist for a chlorine leak at the high school. If there was a chlorine leak at the high school, but that allowed all of our teachers that communicated to them early would it was for them to do so as we were out training and give them those communication pieces. They knew that they could go into that checklist. They can work on that checklist work through it and then it would lead them down that path well in doing that allowed them to start to see as they're checking off these things and looking through now we have this nice robust in-depth checklist for all our stakeholders as they're going through this now, they're seeing okay. Did I do you know process number one, two, three. Oh who did communicate this to, who do I communicate that to, now that other two way communication is starting to flow. So now if there's an issue those teachers or that staff member can now reach out to somebody else to the right or to the left of them or up or down in the communication chain, whichever way you want to go. They now have two-way communication directly with people that they need that can help also with that two-way communication as CrisisGo got bigger and they started throwing more tools at us that roster feature. The roster feature was phenomenal because now we can actually account for our students we can account for our staff and account for our students so that check-in feature that roster feature now we can communicate without having to actually look somebody in the face and when we're displaced throughout our campus, whatever emergency that we're training for. If we use a fire for example, when we train, we try to make sure that the real estate that will be eaten up by some fire by the fire apparatus what however it shows up that we're thinking about these things that we're gaming these things out so we know that we won't have that line of sight with the building administrator or we know we won't have line of sight with all of our other staff members so we can now use the check in to say hey, we're here and then the roster feature to say. Hey, my kiddos were accounted for and we work it up the chain that way so then as we go now if we look at CrisisGo the way they built in the escalation feature. So now we can escalate that communication up the district-wide.

Also to our First Responders, but even before we go to just an emergency in itself the district why communication has been a blessing to us because when I first came to Kirkwood literally we have an elementary school, maybe 200 yards away from the high school and if something happened at the high school the elementary school would never even know about it, nobody would even there would be zero communication. So by bringing in a whole district wide piece it made us re-evaluate how we did things communicate it across all specs. So again, we with CrisisGo it helped us identify that not only did we need to use the app and platform to help us communicate throughout the district, but we might also want to have additional, you know, maybe beef up our radio system, which is what we did. We went and got a radio system that could handle transmissions throughout the entire district. We had repeaters put on several different buildings. So we had those level of redundancies starting to build in as we began to grow our internal systems. So with our district-wide communication now as an emergency occurs, our district is piped into it. So all those high-level those c-level decision makers those executive decision makers can follow the communication that is being put out between staff members those operational people that are handling that staff and those managerial people which are your school administrators so they can now the district administrators those executive decision makers can now see the information that's going and they can start working themselves to get all those pieces to the puzzle that they're going to need to help support those manages and those operational people those teachers on the ground as boots on the ground. So that in and of itself was a blessing as well.

Now if we look at the culture of what we had the culture now is that everyone's understanding not only timely and accurate emergency communication, but just the awareness of safety and security which is huge if we can build the awareness it helps and I really think the way CrisisGo has used their platform and puts it in the hands of everyone now, it's on there, you know, you know, it's on their brain all the time. Before I would get calls like “Hey Levaughn, I’m not sure I think I logged out of CrisisGo can you help me get back into it.” But as we started using it people started seeing that they wanted information once we started using it day in and day out now we are five or six years into it. Literally now the whole thing is I didn't get it on CrisisGo this happened. I didn't get this, you know, and then that's when you're explaining. Hey remember alerts will signal and override vibrate notices will not but their culture itself has grown exponentially and that's truly what the platform does. For us, it showed A). where we were deficient, and we were not unlike most schools I would venture to say. At least most schools in our area where we're decision because we just don't know what we don't know really safety and security inside schools and looking at it that way has changed and it's still something relatively new. So getting everybody on the same page understand that a school district is an organization much like Pepsi, Coca-Cola, and Amazon and we have assets that we need to protect, you know, we have people, property, proprietary information, brand, and reputation those same things that we need to protect the more we start doing that moving forward the greater and better that, you know, the culture will grow and understand and I think CrisisGo really help us with that because those features within it causes our staff to rely on those features. So for example, the panic feature, I always tell everybody should somebody should you be outside of the school district and you're at a church or you're at a mall and something happens where your you have a you're driving down the road. You have a car wreck by all means use your panic button because it will let us know where you are and we can get help to you. That's one instance.

The roster feature, which is great where you have the long hold. We use if in a campus here where you can get that immediate emergency contact information our teachers love it. So now they no longer carry the 3-ring binder when our coaches when they go to on field trips and our coaches are no longer using it when they're going away football or basketball games. They have it attached right there in the app on their phone in their pocket or on their iPad and they can retrieve this information. Should they be like I said at a either a sporting event or outside on a field trip and they've come to depend on it because they know now they have a tool that is truly useful to them and if we go back to what I said earlier when we had that that pamphlet one side red one side green. Nobody ever uses. They use it for scratch paper that was about it. So now we've actually been able to remove all those things we have schools that literally from beginning to end can set an alarm, sound an alert, evacuate a building, get to their locations be it rally points or assembly areas. Account for every single teacher with a check-in, account for every single student via roster. Cancel clear out the drill cancel it and have everybody return to school without ever saying a word and that's huge now granted. It took us a lot of work to get there. But that's huge because at the end of the day when something truly does occur, these are the things that they're going to have to be doing. They may not have contact with the decision makers. So they're going to have to make those decisions on their own. So they're going to have to look in that checklist and see what's the next step. They're gonna have to reach out to their person to the right to the left to the up or down of them and reach out to them and let them know what they're doing why they're doing and how they're doing. So somebody can take care of them. But if we don't train them on the front end either with the app with practical application all these things, you'll never rise to their level of what we believe they'll rise to they'll never rise to the level the occasion the fall to their level of training. So I believe that with the CrisisGo platform, it has grown us and shown us those deficiencies and actually had a fix and I truly think it's a great app and will continue using we still have schools that are pushing the envelope on finding new and high-speed ways to use it. Ways we never even thought of.

So now I show this slide because this is now our communication chain. We have two-way communication going throughout the entire system. So we have our staff our teachers which are operational level. We've got our building admin from a managerial level then we've got our district admin which are executive level and our First Responders. So what we've done and what I felt was a good thing for us now granted or smaller school district, we have two municipalities and one fire department two policeman - why don't I take that back we have two fire and two police districts within our cities our schools and within our schools footprint. So what I did is I took those people that we had the most contact with from each entity from fire department and from the police department. I had them download the app. I've put them in.

So we know immediately to escalate up to them. Again what we have in our buildings is we have four school resource officers that are paid policemen that work for us. They're also on the app and what we've done for example, if you think about the panic button we've taken out all of the other panic buttons and we use the CrisisGo panic button because we can get help to them now be it another person in the building or a policeman because when the policemen are coming they're already contacting the other police to come as well. Right now we've got direct communication and we it seemed to work well for us we haven't had any complaints. I do know the command staff at both the fire department and the police department like the fact that they can keep abreast of what's going on in the buildings without actually having to respond to the building because they're busy as well. And if it doesn't reach the level that will require a full fledge fire or police response, but they can still be part of understanding what's going on it makes their job a lot easier because make no mistake when they're out in the community and we're smaller community where town of 28,000 people when they're on the community. Everybody's asking everybody because most people know everybody so they're asking hey what happened over at the school or hey what happened here on this road? What happened there if they can stay piped in and kind of tuned in to what's going on. It makes it better for the entire community. So that communication chain has grown exponentially. Now, what we've done is we've also brought in our private schools that are around us. We've brought them in and tied them in as well. So they understand that if something happens at our school, we're going to alert them because it will affect them as well depending on what it is. So if we have an active assailant or we're doing a lockout because something happened they'll know that hey you may need to do these things as well prior to then we did not have this type of communication flow or that communication chain and things just didn't work well. And we got called on it and rightfully so we should have but now that we've put these measures into place. It's actually brought us together as a community with those First Responders and all those surrounding us, the other schools around us. And also it's built us a stronger communication change within the building. So are there any question?

I'd like to remind you that you can submit any questions by the questions panel. It looks like we do have a question. How did your district go about including law enforcement in your communication?

So law enforcement again, we have four, were in Kirkwood School District. So we have four Kirkwood policeman at work within our district. So what we did is first off we gave the app to them. We made sure they download it. We put them on the app. Then what we did is their command set. So all the SROs who they report too, we did their sergeant, their lieutenant, their captain, all the way up to their chief. But of course every chiefs got 90 billion things to do, so we made sure that the three important people in the department knew so we had a chain of who we're going to do. We did the same thing just told them, “Hey download the app.” Here's your login information and show them and gave them a little quick down and dirty on how to use it. They're very appreciative of it and they love it. And the big thing, the big selling point for them also was the same thing. We did the same thing with the fire department because our fire department our fire chief or fire marshal at that time his daughter went to our high school. So he was really always, you know, he loved to help us love to be there for us. He loved it because it we had all of our maps all of the school maps are in there. So they now know no matter what the situation is. They can navigate our school based off of the app they have on the phone. So it was just a matter of letting them know that this is something we have and we'd like them to have it because then they were on the same page as we were and they can understand what it is we were going to do.

Another question is being a district with multiple buildings. Has it been a struggle to get each of your buildings to participate on the same level when it comes to safety communication?

Why yes, that is a great question and I understand exactly what you're saying. Yes, because every building is its own entity. I don't care if you have four buildings or 40, every administrator runs their building different and because of that things are going to be done differently. What I found is the easiest way to do things is simply to get things implemented with it is to find those schools that were the best ones at that safety and security piece. So I went to them sat down with them. We grew it together. We did the trial and error. Test this and test that. What do you think of this? What do you think of that? So we flushed all that out there so this thing was pretty much like a self-licking ice cream cone and it could run on its own. Didn't have to worry about it. And then once we built that model we then went and showed it to the other schools and then the other schools and it’s not beneath me to say I basically shame them into doing the same process or it's like hey school a is over here doing it. Their parents are loving it. And then guess what the parents are saying. Well, my school's doing this and the other parents talk and one thing leads to another like I said, it's kind of shaming but it worked because at the end of the day, we're trying to save lives and whatever I have to do to get that that's within reason then that's the way we go. But yes find that school that's good and then use them as your as your foundation so they can go sell it for you. Because once your administrative team sees this school doing all these great things with this application. They're going to be on it. Okay, that's great. Yeah, let's do it because that schools going to sell it for you, that's going to be the proof in the pudding for you.

Great, looks like we have another question. Have you had an issue with your staff not having smart phones and not being able to access the communication or digital plans?

Yes, so we have one gentleman. He's retiring this year, but he's just as hey Levaughn and walks over to me and goes “I have a flip phone” and he truly had a flip phone. So what we did here is since we bought the app any device of where one to one school. So any device that we've purchased and we own the application had to be on that device. Now, we were an apple school so if we had it on an iPad as soon as the teacher would leave of course wifi would disconnect once they got so far from it. Then they're working offline. But also in our procedures our normal operating procedures when it comes to emergencies. we want them working in teams as battle buddies. So if I go out and I'm using the iPad and the iPad goes down, it is my job to find my battle buddy or the next person to the right or to the left of me who more than likely does have it on their phone because we had some who just said, no, I'm not doing okay. No problem. We can't tell you to do it but these are features that you're going to lose by not having it. Long story short the fast majority of our, I would say at least 98%, staff have it and they have no problem putting it on their phone because they do know all the worthwhile information they have in it. At it's a very low end, it's a great buzz book at the very low end. At the very high end it can help you solve the most difficult of emergencies at the drop of a dime. So what that means we go back we make sure that they have a battle buddy and that they know that this is already part of their plan. And this is the way we're training to make sure that you go as somebody else who can then either communicate for you or you can you know, you guys can basically feed off of each other and they can help you out. Should it be that you're only using a iPad and iPad went down or you only have a flip phone or you don't or you even forgot your device inside, because it's always better to work in buddy teams.

It looks like we have one last question besides the swimming pool chemicals. What other additions did you make to your emergency plans when you revamp them?

Okay, so we looked at everything. So we have railroad tracks that run past two of our schools. So of course boom immediately, we got to do a hazmat. So it's just doing that threat assessment. You know, what are the things or the hazards? What are these threats and hazards? That could occur at this specific building and you have to do it for each building because each building has its own unique characteristics and environment and things around it. So we had to that had railroad tracks so we gotta go. Okay. Well, what about a train derailment? So let's put something in there for a train derailment, so we have that hazmat piece. We have other schools that are closer to highways or major thoroughfares. We have to think about that hazmat piece. What do we do if we have a six or seven car collision in front. We have a major thoroughfare that everything transports in front of one of our schools. So we look at that. How we got to do this? We have one that's smack dab in the middle of the neighborhood. We're like, okay. Well, what if we have this gas leak, where are we going? So all these things look at your threats here in your hazards that once you see those and you can you can pretty much detail those at each building. Those are things that you then want to put in your emergency operations plan. There shouldn't be no stone left unturned. So we have other pieces we can think of if we had a child who deceased at school. We have a teacher at school. Okay, if we have a narcotics overdose, what do we do? All these things that we have a suicide at school? What do we do? All these things that if you can imagine if you can think about it can happen so you should Have something in line for all those things so don't leave it and that's how we got away from the just the fire, earthquake, the tornado, active shooter. That's how we started building as we started looking at a true threat and hazard assessment and going. Okay all these things can happen. What if we have kids that get picked up at every school kiddos are getting picked up by their parents or their driving at the high school. What do we do if a parent or a kiddo or one of our drivers hits another student or runs over another student that's going to be traumatic for everybody. So what are we doing there? How are we addressing that so that's something that should be in there as a well. So we're always going to look for thing. I'm sorry. So we're always going to look for those things that can happen within our organization. So look at it as just that what are the things that could happen to our organization and then those are the things that you go after. A lot of times it'll look like low-hanging fruit, but truly you should be able to deal with that because emergency operations plan deals with the application of all these things and making things happen. Where crisis management deals with your brand and your reputation and I would just say this for those the other school members if a kiddo gets ran over in your parking lot make no mistake. There's going to be a Facebook post about how chaotic your parking lot was before then so you need to have all these that's your brand. That's your reputation. These are things that you need to be thinking about so you can correct them on the frontend instead of trying to keep play catch up on the back end if that makes sense. Hopefully it does.

Very well said. I think that's it for the questions. Thanks Levaughn, we really appreciate you sharing your insights and expertise on school safety. And once again, thank you all for attending and participating. If you'd like to learn more about CrisisGo and how we can help make your district and school safer. Please visit us online and follow us on social media. We’ll be sending out a follow-up email soon with a link to this recording in case you'd like to share it with your colleagues and friends. Have a great day. Thank you.

Thank you.