Why Student Safety and Antiquated Phone Systems Don’t Mix

By Travis Dillard, President, Inflow Communications

Imagine it’s the first Monday of a new school year. Hordes of students funnel into classrooms and teachers immediately dive into the syllabus. Everything is going smoothly until emergency strikes: A student suffers an extreme allergic reaction and she requires immediate medical attention.

Thankfully, the staff is prepared. Within minutes, the school nurse is providing care, a teacher has dialed 911, and a dispatcher has confirmed that an ambulance is on the way. Disaster averted, right?

It depends. If your phone system isn’t up-to-date, is designed improperly, or it doesn’t adhere to modern best practices, then the dispatcher may have actually sent the ambulance to the wrong place — the administration building where the phone system resides and connects to the Public Switched Network (PSTN), rather than the school where the emergency occurred. In that scenario, the EMTs could end up miles from where they’re needed. And, by the time someone recognizes the error, the student’s health could be compromised.

3 Ways Old Phone Systems Negatively Impact Student Safety

The scenario above might sound extreme, but it’s just one of many ways antiquated or improperly designed phone systems put students at risk. Consider, for instance, how old phone technology might impact these scenarios:

• 911 response accuracy: Even if your phone system is capable of communicating the correct school address to a 911 dispatcher, most old systems aren’t able to tell responders where exactly to respond. In a large school district with large schools, this can be particularly problematic. For example, if an ambulance shows up at the East wing of a 2,000-seat high school, but should have gone to the West wing (a 5 minute walk away), it can dramatically impact response time.

• School lockdowns: While most school telecommunications systems are capable of issuing lockdown notifications over a loudspeaker or paging system, these notifications typically require manual entry. This brings a human element into emergency response that, in a frantic emergency situation, isn’t always reliable or consistent. If the person responsible for issuing the lockdown notification panics, it may never get sent.

• Natural disaster: If a major storm strikes your area, one of the first things to go down is the phone line. And because you’re at the mercy of a utility performing repairs, this means you could be without service for hours or days. In the case of a much bigger natural disaster, this lack of telecommunications could represent significant risk to student and school safety.

Is There a Better Alternative for K-12 School Districts?

Thankfully, there is — and implementing it doesn’t have to break your school district’s budget.

In my next post, I’ll break down the benefits of implementing a cloud-based phone system like ShoreTel Sky in larger school systems, and share the unique steps Inflow Communications took to help the Beaverton School District dramatically improve student safety.

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