CENTEGIX had the pleasure of partnering with AASA for another thought leadership webinar in January of 2024. Esteemed panelists included Dr. April Moore, Superintendent, and Bryan Auld, Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources, both of Sierra Sands Unified School District. Addison Davis, former Superintendent of Hillsborough County Public Schools in Florida and current Partner of Strategos Group, a company helping Superintendents find the best solutions to accelerate student achievement, was also in attendance. 

The webinar, entitled “Optimizing Response Times for School Safety Across Districts,” highlighted the importance of rapid response times for school safety and the strategies these educators implemented to improve their emergency responses and outcomes. 

Throughout the conversation, three themes emerged: 

#1: Compliance

“For every minute delay in primary response for certain life-threatening medical emergencies, there is a measurable effect on mortality. 

The research is conclusive, especially for the first 5 minutes in the response interval, where rapid intervention makes the greatest difference.”

– RapidSOS, Outcomes: Quantifying the Impact of Emergency Response Times

It’s for this reason that Alyssa’s Law and other, similar pieces of legislation under review across the country emphasize emergency response times. Rapid responses improve outcomes. 

Without measures to improve these times, not only will districts unnecessarily put staff and students at risk, but they will also risk being non-compliant with state law. 

Mr. Davis, who served as a Superintendent in Florida, the second state to adopt Alyssa’s Law, noted the importance of automaticity through the use of supportive technologies. Specifically, by automating the response to an emergency, we improve emergency response times and, therefore, the potential outcome of the situation

As Alyssa’s Law gains traction, taking steps to prepare your district will only benefit your staff and students.

#2: Visibility and Student Safety

In a 2018 study released by the U.S. Department of Education’s Readiness and Emergency Management for Schools Technical Assistance (REMS TA) Center, 24.7% of students felt unsafe and 14.4% avoided school because they felt unsafe within the past month (Student Perceptions of Safety and Their Impact on Creating a Safe School Environment).

Creating a safe learning environment is non-negotiable for districts. Simply put, students cannot learn when they don’t feel safe

Dr. Moore emphasized the need for proactive student safety measures. In particular, she highlighted visibility as a proactive school safety strategy.

She and the other panelists praised the CENTEGIX wearable badge for two reasons:

  • The physical visibility of the badge gives students a sense of safety. Students know the purpose of the badge and they know that all staff in the building wear them.
  • The actions taken by first responders after the badge is used reinforce that sense of safety because students observe the speed of those responses. The badge isn’t symbolic, and it isn’t all talk. Using it generates a real response that students see. 

Sierra Sands USD coupled its implementation of the CENTEGIX CrisisAlert™ safety solution with the adoption of the I Love U Guys Foundation’s standard response protocol (SRP). This SRP creates a common language within the school around emergency responses via clear terminology, definitions, and imagery. The language is used by district- and school-level staff and with students. In this way, Sierra Sands and other school districts that adopt the SRP are improving safety literacy and fluency among students through explicit and visible communication. 

When these tools are used, Sierra Sands staff and students know what actions to take. As such, their emergency response times have decreased from five minutes to less than two in many instances, improving outcomes. 

What’s more, Dr. Moore noted an increase in the amount of “instructional uptime” within the district. Clear communication regarding crises and wearable safety technology decreases the amount of disruption to class time. Likewise, informal language used to describe incidents causes wasted instructional time and unnecessary trauma to staff and students. 

These visible layers of emergency response implemented by Sierra Sands USD in addition to ongoing work supporting students’ social-emotional learning (SEL) and building connections within school communities go a long way to alleviating some of those feelings of insecurity and fear on campus. 

#3: Teacher Safety and Empowerment

According to Sy Doan, et al, Teacher Well-Being and Intentions to Leave, published in 2023, more than a quarter of teachers report fearing for their physical safety at school. Topping the list of these fears? Student altercations and active shooter situations. 

While many teachers have access to email and phones during the school day, these tools are insufficient to report incidents requiring immediate attention, like those that top the list of teacher fears. 

Mobile safety apps, despite their popularity, also fall into the category of not sufficient. The panelists noted several reasons for this classification.

1. They require teachers to download software to personal devices. California is one of 35 collective bargaining states guaranteeing K-12 teachers the right to organize for improved working conditions. As Mr. Auld noted, “Safety apps are a non-starter” for teachers—and unions—across the state. 

2. They are not always available. Even if a school staff member does download the app to their device, there is no guarantee that the app will be readily accessible (e.g., the app could be buried in an app folder or require several swipes to tap) or even useful if the mobile device’s connection to Wi-Fi or cellular data is unreliable.

3. Mobile apps are not discreet. Taking out one’s mobile device during a student altercation risks escalating the situation—the absolute last thing that should be done to protect everyone involved. 

4. Finally, mobile apps require focused attention. Using a safety app immediately pulls a staffer’s attention away from the situation at hand. Not only does that endanger the safety of the people tied up in the incident, but also requires a calm and collected reporter. Because all humans respond differently to a crisis, school safety demands a product that elicits a consistent response.

Instead, supportive technologies, such as the CrisisAlert wearable badge, automate safety procedures and allow protocols to be implemented within seconds. Requests for support are heads-up, hands-free, and elicit a rapid response from school staff and other first responders. 

Both Dr. Moore and Mr. Auld noted that teachers within Sierra Sands overwhelmingly prefer the wearable badge to other safety tools for its discretion, ease of use, and ability to obtain a rapid response. They also specifically pointed out that their teachers “don’t feel alone” in their teaching spaces because they know that someone is looking out for them on the other side of the badge. Their teachers feel empowered to request support and safer while wearing it.

Because of this, Dr. Moore and Mr. Auld said that their safety protocols, particularly CrisisAlert, are a powerful recruitment tool for Sierra Sands USD. As Mr. Auld stated, “Teachers didn’t sign up for a career in law enforcement.” They signed up to be teachers: to enlighten young learners and to make a difference in their lives. Equipping Sierra Sands school staff with safety tools that provide a sense of empowerment and assurance allows teachers to focus on what matters most—teaching and learning—making their district a more attractive option for job seekers. 

Your Investment in District Emergency Response Times

Improving district safety requires rapid emergency responses. By implementing a layered crisis response, including but not limited to SRPs and always-ready safety technologies, districts not only comply with changing legislation across the country but also improve the outcomes of these emergencies. But the return on the investment doesn’t stop there. With these in place, districts improve their “instructional uptime,” their students’ feelings of safety on campus, and make their district a more desirable workplace for teachers.

CENTEGIX is honored to protect Sierra Sands Unified School District, Hillsborough County Public Schools, and more than 10 million people nationwide with their safety protocols. 

Improve your district’s emergency response times. Reach out to a member of the CENTEGIX team about CrisisAlert or our Safety Platform™ solution today.