3 Ways Phone Systems Dramatically Improve Student Safety
By Travis Dillard, Inflow Communications
Prior to 2015, leaders within the Beaverton School District would have told you that their phone system was a detractor of school safety, rather than a tool that could be used to improve it. Because of an outdated design, if an emergency occurred there was a chance responders would show up at the wrong location, let alone have detailed information on where exactly the call originated. If a teacher switched classrooms or left the district, it forced the IT team to manually update databases. And if the superintendent wanted to immediately notify every school in his district about a security threat, it often required manual calls to each of the district’s 50+ schools.
Simply put, the phone system — and the processes it required — created inefficiencies that hindered the district’s ability to optimize student safety.
A year later, everything’s changed. Over the summer, my team helped BSD implement a next generation ShoreTel unified communications system that has already transformed student safety. For example, when someone calls 911 through the new ShoreTel system, responders are now given explicit instructions about where to go — not just Mckay Elementary, but the specific classroom.
The result of that feature alone has been incredible: In early tests, 911 response times within Beaverton schools have improved tenfold. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Here are three other ways BSD’s unified communications system has established the school district as a leader in student safety:
• Advanced E911: Most school districts today rely on PS-ALI technology to keep 911 databases up-to-date. The problem with PS-ALI, however, is that it requires manual input from a school district’s often overwhelmed IT personnel. As a result, it’s virtually impossible to keep every account up-to-date, all the time — particularly in school districts like Beaverton with 5,000+ endpoints. Advanced E911 solves this problem by tracking the originating 911 call down to the exact physical location (classroom, building, etc.), even if the IP phone was moved between classrooms or schools. Administrative information is updated in real-time, which dramatically reduces IT labor and improves 911 response time and accuracy. This is a must-have feature for IP-based phone systems that is often overlooked.
• Lockdown procedures and notifications: One of the best features of ShoreTel’s unified communications system is its Emergency Notification Application. During a scenario in which an entire school need to execute lockdown protocols, this tool allows anyone to issue notifications to specific people and external authorities across a variety of channels (phone, mobile, email, overhead page, etc.). This system can also automate lockdown procedures in high-risk scenarios when panic might set in, causing the person in charge to forget to execute manual notifications.
• Call recording: Now, whenever BSD dials 911, the call is recorded and saved for after-action analysis. This is important for a few reasons, but it primarily improves the school district’s ability to assess how an emergency was handled. The option to record calls also help schools better manage bomb threats by giving the authorities better information and evidence.
There are many more benefits to implementing this type of phone system that we’ll cover in a future white paper (stay tuned!). And our project with BSD has helped pave the way for other schools like yours to cost-effectively implement a unified communications system and improve student safety.
In my next blog post about school safety, I’ll break down the details of our collaborative contract with Beaverton and explain how it can directly benefit your school district. In the meantime, if you have any questions about your phone system and its ability to meet the modern challenges of student safety, don’t hesitate to reach out to us by clicking here.
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