The recent passage of the CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act is something that brought many American households hope and tangible financial assistance. However, as with many similar bills, the verbiage can feel complex, and many people may not realize that the act offers additional help in other sectors. When it comes to school safety, we always get excited over anything that helps schools update or improve their security, but we REALLY love the benefits of the CARES act: over $899 million dollars in funding for technology upgrades! What does this mean for you and your school? Only the best news ever! You can now receive nSide products AT NO COST because of this funding and its implications.
In accordance with the guidelines laid out by the CARES Act, our products and services meet the criteria, such as developing procedures to improve response efforts of local agencies, facility upgrades, repairs or improvements that can support student’s health needs, and purchasing educational technology. To get started, claim your funding HERE, then read on to find six things you can do with this important money:
Start planning ahead with the nSide Base Platform.
- This is our signature product, and it works in tandem with all our other products to enhance your emergency planning and communication. It includes components like mapping and 360 degree views of your campus, creating and storing your emergency plans, help with compliance for state and local guidelines, and training for your school community (staff, students, and educators) in protocols and procedures.
Be more prepared with nSide|View.
nSide|View is like a digital blueprint of your school. It links images and photographs together to create a virtual walk-through of the structures, and provides first responders with accurate and detailed exits, entrances, and anything else they’d need to know. It also helps you base emergency decisions on more than old paper maps of your school’s rooms, hallways, and more.
Gain extra insight with nSide|Live.
Ever wished that you had an extra set of eyes (or two)? That’s what you will gain when you use the nSide|Live platform: extra viewing abilities to help in an emergency, to help protect students from bullying, drugs, and crime, and a secure way to view happenings on campus. Best of all, this data can be provided to first responders in an instant, giving them potentially life-saving information rapidly and in real-time.
Monitor your school bus systems with nSide|Fleet.
This comprehensive way to keep track of your students and drivers keeps them safe and allows emergency personnel to reach them in the event of a crisis. You can also view reports that show fuel levels, maintenance issues, and geofencing to ensure the utmost safety for the children under your care.
Close off your campus with one-touch with nSide|Edge.
This amazing piece of technology gives the ability to lock down the campus doors with just one click. This is effective in the event of active shootings, or any instance where an immediate lockdown would be needed. You can also schedule when doors are locked to coordinate traffic flow through your building. Be assured that the ability is completely secure, so only authorized personnel would be able to initiate the lockdown procedures!
Reach the most critical audience with nSide|Notify.
When you need to reach parents, students, or staff in a hurry, you will want a quick, cohesive way to do so in a professional way, and nSide|Notify is the answer. It uses the existing communication standards at the school, and integrates them to decrease lag time in an emergency and allow mass communication in a smooth manner. It saves you time when moments matter!
This funding can make a huge impact on your school, and the process to receive it is simple and straightforward. If you’re unsure if you can integrate or install our products or services, we would love to connect you with our team members. They can walk you through the steps to decide which products meet the guidelines for your specific campus, and how to get started!
The age old saying that, “April showers bring May flowers” is true. It evokes visions of beautiful tulips and bright yellow rainbows, with blue skies and sunshine just around the bend. However, there is another aspect of springtime that is less obvious…and more deadly: bad weather that can threaten school buildings and the children inside of them. School safety is what we specialize in, and weather is another aspect that can be overlooked, yet is just as important to protect from. Depending on the part of the country you live in, the difficulties of bad weather can include things like flooding, tornadoes, hurricanes, and ice storms. These can happen throughout the year, but springtime is the perfect opportunity to reassess the safety measures in your school, and prepare for whatever may come your way via Mother Nature. Here are our best tips to building a safe and secure plan for severe weather:
Educate yourself about the weather and communications
Do you know the difference between a “watch” and a “warning”? Knowing the terms that meteorologists use when they communicate risk and threats can help you know when it’s time to alert your school or staff, and when you have time to wait. How do you become more educated? We like this little guide from ABC News that outlines some basic weather lingo, including information on how tornadoes are staged and measured, and what the difference is between a funnel cloud and a tornado (pro tip: they’re actually not the same thing!). Accuweather is one of the best websites and apps for quick news and updates. Bonus: it shows hourly rain levels! Hazardous Weather Outlooks are notices issued from the National Weather Service, so knowing how to access these will also be helpful (find those HERE).
Decide on a cohesive chain of command
If you are an administrator, you need to be sure your team is on board with the who, what, when, and where for disseminating all of the crucial information when the time comes. Time is of the essence when it comes to severe weather, and you will not have time to waste figuring out things like: Who is sending texts or alerts to parents, and what level of severity will trigger those? How long before an event like a tornado or super storm will you decide to close or shorten a school day? How will you alert those on the campus, and who will be in charge of executing that job? Not only do you need to make these decisions ahead of time, but be sure to communicate frequently and thoroughly so that everyone knows their role, and when they’ll need to step into it. If members of your response team are also teachers, don’t forget to make a secondary plan for where their classes will go if they need to step into an emergency role during the school day. Don’t forget to also designate two people who know how to turn off the electricity and gas if the school sustains damage (in fact, assigning tasks to two people is always wise, in case one cannot get to the building or isn’t on campus).
Don’t forget the school busses
Transportation happens all through a school day, depending on how your bus routes run and their timing. Because storms or tornadoes can happen rapidly and events unfold quickly sometimes, your bus routes need to be considered in your plan of action as well. Coordinate with your drivers about what they should do if a tornado watch is issued, and come up with a few shelter options (such as caves, structures) along the daily routes. You can find out more about nSide’s fleet systems HERE, which offer schools an extra layer of protection and communication.
Examine your structure or plan for new structures
Whether you are building a new school or are in a decades-old structure, knowing the blueprints, exit routes, and stability of the buildings is one of the most crucial steps during a weather warning or evacuation. Roger Edwards from the Storm Protection Center explains that this is important because it can save lives. He recommends consulting professional architectural engineers to find the “weak spots” in your building, and know where NOT to send students for shelter. He also explains that if you are building a brand-new structure, referencing guides such as the FEMA tornado shelter guide is a helpful primary step. If you don’t have the budget or ability to build brand new classrooms, you can hire someone to line some of the interior rooms with concrete. He cautions that this can be costly if you are adding them onto an existing building, so you will want to estimate costs for new and retrofitted choices. Lastly, Edwards emphasizes that children should never be sheltered in place in portable classrooms, which are dangerous, and should also not be ushered into large rooms such as gyms or auditoriums. These rooms have structural weaknesses that can cause them to collapse with even low-level wind speeds.
Plan for power failure
Many emergency plans hinge on the idea that you will have access to electricity. With most school buildings having generators meant to turn on when the power fails, it can be something you take for granted, but losing power can become a reality very quickly. Experts from the Weather Service recommend that you not only make a structured plan, but have a backup plan that can be executed without power. For example, if your school uses a tone or alarm system to warn students or staff, after losing power, you will not be able to reach a large number of people using that strategy. Keep a compressed air horn or portable megaphone on campus, which can be used to alert the people around you to an emergency.
Let parents know what to expect
One of the things that sends parents into chaos very quickly is a lack of communication. If your child is in danger, or you perceive that they may become threatened, you want answers and to know who is in charge. Issuing instructions before the school year begins will give parents a clear expectation of who will be contacting them, how (such as text messages, emails, etc.), and under what circumstances their child may be kept late at school. Research shows that children are safer within the walls of secure and reinforced school rooms, rather than on a bus or in a car, so many schools opt to keep children longer during severe weather. A simple PDF, sent to all parents or guardians, can be easily accessed and stored on the school website if parents need to find it, so they can understand the process of notification. If you are able, designate a specific phone number or email and someone who can man it, so parents can reach someone to find out information. When things are resolved or the storm has passed, don’t neglect to send out an “all clear” or message of finality to parents so they are aware the danger is no longer present.
After the storm has passed, your job isn’t over!
Assessment after the danger is no longer a problem is one of the best things you can do to prevent problems in the future. The National Weather Service recommends that you have staff check all the buildings for damage before you release students to go home or leave the campus, and that you have a system in place to let them know when it’s safe to exit. They also recommend periodic practicing of plans such as tornado drills so it doesn’t alarm children when it’s the real deal (with younger children, this can be traumatic, so you want to be clear about what is a practice and what isn’t. It’s also beneficial to alert parents when you will be doing drills, so they can discuss with their children about any fears they may have). Finally, sit down with your disaster team or staff and go over what can be improved, and what worked well. Stay positive and open-minded during these reviews so everyone feels that their opinions can be heard and implemented when appropriate. Make notes about things that didn’t work, so they don’t get repeated.
Keeping students safe in severe weather can feel intimidating and like a ton of pressure. It is always a big responsibility to be in charge of other people’s children, but preparation is the key component to running a smooth plan of action in a crisis. Since we specialize in safety here at nSide, we understand the demands on school administrators who are in charge of campuses, and that’s why we want to come alongside you. Together, we can strengthen your safety plan and build your confidence so that when the time comes, you will know exactly what to do! Visit our website today HERE to find out how you can be matched with one of our professionals and assess your school’s safety plan!
Millions of Dollars Now Available to Alabama Schools for Safety Purchases
Alabama State Superintendent, Dr. Eric Mackey, reported Alabama received almost $900 million for school districts for COVID relief and facility upgrades for developing and implementing procedures and systems to improve emergency preparedness. This means your school can receive important upgrades to your nSide platform at NO COST TO YOU, but you need to act fast!
What’s New at nSide
We’ve been building some exciting new features to our nSide platform to help you keep your school safer!
Digital Skills Survey for EOP
Easily distribute and submit skills surveys via your computer or phone, instead of using paper! The results can then be quickly translated into the EOP after submission, saving you the time and headache of traditional paper forms.
nSide | Tips
A statewide tip submission system for public K-12 schools within the State of Alabama, integrated with nSide|Notify and the nSide Platform, allowing individuals to submit confidential public safety tips for review by local school officials, law enforcement, and/or the Alabama State Department of Education (ALSDE).
nSide | Boost
Poor cell phone reception in school buildings can make it impossible for people to call for help when needed. nSide|Boost eliminates dead zones and ensures all personal devices on your campus are always connected.
nSide | Academy
We launched nSide|Academy, January 11, 2021 an online training platform for nSide members to build their skills on using the nSide Platform. It is free for nSide users and can be done at their convenience. They receive an nSide certification upon completion of the course.
What We’re Working on Now
Vaping Detection Solutions
Vaping is on the rise in schools, with more and more ways students can hide vapes in plain sight. We are working on an integration with our existing platform that will detect vaping, even when invisible to the naked eye, and report to administration. Contact us if you’re interested in learning more!
nSide | Dispatch : Are you ready?
nSide is working on nSide|Dispatch, which will be bringing every E911 in Alabama to the nSide Platform to view nSide maps and emergency procedures. In preparation for this, schools should make good practice of keeping their information up-to-date regularly, so that at the launch of Dispatch, E911 will be viewing accurate information in case of an emergency.
How safe is my child’s school?
This is an unsettling question that many parents have found themselves asking more frequently over the last twenty years. It’s not a comfortable topic, but after the shootings at Columbine High School in 1999, school safety was thrust into the spotlight. Today, gun violence, bullying, and other related issues are paramount in the public school sector, and can leave parents and educators wondering how school safety can be improved or enhanced. It’s one of the things that we here at nSide have set out to do: build confidence in the school systems, so they are well-equipped to handle anything that comes their way.
Are schools truly unsafe?
There are many issues facing school administrations today. Depending on the region in which a K-12 school is located, some of these include:
- Bullying and Cyberbullying
- Gun violence
- Student and Teacher Mental Health
- Natural Disasters (such as hurricanes or tornadoes)
- Threat Assessment and School Climate (the emotional environment of a school)
- Recovery from a disaster or crisis (dealing with the aftermath
Each year, there are multiple resources and studies done to assess the safety of elementary and upper level schools, including the School Survey on Crime and Safety. This comprehensive study is comprised of 4,800 randomly selected schools, and provides estimates of school crime, incidents, disciplinary issues, and covers crime prevention and school security as topics. The very latest version, which occurred in 2019, showed some of the following data (Source: SSOCS)
- From the period of July 1, 2016-June 30, 2017, there were 42 fatalities that were school-related. These include students, staff and school personnel.
- In 2018, there were 836,100 violent victimization crimes (theft and non fatal violence) that occurred among students who are 12-18 years old.
- From 2018-2019, there were 66 reported school shootings. These include 29 shootings that had casualties, and 27 that had injuries reported.
- In 2016, twenty five percent of the reporting fifth graders were at schools where physical conflicts were occurring between classmates at a minimum of once per month. These same fifth graders had lower reading, science, and math scores than the percentage who did not have physical conflict at their school.
Although these are certainly alarming trends, national data concludes that between 1992 and 2017, crime and violence are actually on a downward trend. This can be confusing, because the amount of school shootings is disproportionately higher, and can feel emotionally difficult for parents and educators. Of course, no level of violence in the school environment would be considered appropriate, but there are many factors which have led to a reduction in non-violent and violent crimes alike, and one of these is the addition of security personnel and cameras (Source).
How Cameras Can Keep Schools Safer
After 1999 (which was the year when the Columbine shooting occurred), the number of schools that reported using some type of security camera increased, rising from just 19% to 83% in 2018. In August 2020, a joint effort from the Department of Justice and the Office of Community Oriented Policing suggested ten things that schools can do to improve their safety, and they listed campus and classroom security as third highest priority. The highest priority item was comprehensive school safety assessments, which we will discuss later.
- Video camera monitoring can minimize students using or selling drugs on campus, and can deter theft. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (Source) suggests that installing cameras in locations such as parking lots can capture student interactions, or mitigate drug-related behaviors from high-risk students. As far as thefts, cameras have been shown to deter would-be burglars from things like locker thefts or parking lot thefts (student or staff vehicles). This applies to cameras that are installed with accompanying signs announcing their presence.
- Video cameras in schools have also been shown to reduce bullying, which is a high concern for many parents and educators, and can lend itself to a feeling of instability for students. In some cases, installed cameras on school campuses reduced recorded instances of bullying up to 70%. The National Center for Education Statistics found that students were fearful of certain places on their campuses which did NOT have cameras or adequate camera surveillance, such as outside on school grounds. They also found that students avoided these areas out of fear of being targeted.
- Video cameras can monitor and help identify shooters on a school campus. Surveillance cameras can be very useful to law enforcement when there are intruders or shooters, and capture vandalism and other non-violent offenses. It can also lower the liability for educators and schools, as their positive actions during a crisis are viewable.
Why Schools May be Reluctant to Install Cameras
With any new advance in technology, there can be hindrances of many types, but the top three reasons that schools may be hesitant would be: concerns about student and teacher privacy, the cost of such a service, and making students or teachers feel suspicious about one another. We understand these are genuine concerns, and specifically want to address the issue of privacy. Our unique systems are made up of live monitoring systems that are only accessible to those who need to view it, such as law enforcement or other safety personnel. And in regards to cost, our technology can use your existing cameras (if you have them) and integrates them into our system. If you do need new cameras, we can help guide you to the solution that suits your budget and needs. Lastly, the trust of students and staff has been shown to be highest in schools where the “school climate” is one of safety and security. This works hand in hand with your security plan and installation, fostering an overall environment of trust.
How nSide | Live Works
First, our qualified team will assess your current needs. This is relevant to the findings we mentioned above, which include making a comprehensive safety assessment and plan for your place of education. We will help you decide if you need new equipment, and make sure your current installations are working and in good order. Then, we will make sure your team is trained in using our systems, called nSide|Live. It’s live-time monitoring of your existing (or new, if you need them installed) cameras, and it can be viewed by high level administrators (school safety directors or principals with access) even from afar, and is safe and secure. You won’t need to worry about any unwanted visitors hacking into your secure systems and spying on teachers or students.
In the event of an emergency, you will be able to grant access to first responders and emergency workers. This will get aid to your students, or help you intervene with an emergency situation, immediately. As an administration, you will be able to control who has access and when. Our system is different, because of the ability to grant and revoke access that is needed, based on the situation at hand. Many systems make it much more complicated, and leave their camera systems open to security gaps. No matter what your security camera needs are, we can assist you!
Safety Benefits Everyone
The findings from the most recent SSOCS report continued to affirm that the safer that students feel, the better they are able to focus and meet academic standards. Both students and the staff benefit from safety improvements such as installing cameras, and the long-term benefits of students who are successful in school stretch into the community. Without these safety standards implemented, students not only experience violence, they can also witness violence (which has lasting emotional and psychological effects). With a comprehensive safety plan, curating a secure and stable environment is possible and can help students and staff thrive in their roles.
If your school is ready to take the next step, and assess the systems already in place, please let us know. We would love to sit down with you, address any security gaps, and help you move forward with a concrete plan to keep you, your students, and your staff members safer than ever.
Protecting yourself and others from respiratory illnesses like the flu starts with you. The following are educational materials such as factsheets, videos and trainings on nonpharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) that you can print, watch, act on, and share with others.
Nonpharmaceutical Interventions and Community Interventions for Infection
Protect Your Children and Others from Flu Factsheet
Protect Your Students from Flu During the School Year
The NPI 101: An Introduction to Nonpharmaceutical Interventions (NPIs) for Pandemic Influenza course is designed to assist state, tribal, local, and territorial public health professionals in preparing for and responding to pandemic flu in their communities through the use of NPIs. This interactive course educates learners on how to plan for the use of NPIs before, during, and after a flu pandemic to help slow the spread of flu
SOURCE: “Educational Materials.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2 Aug. 2017, www.cdc.gov/nonpharmaceutical-interventions/tools-resources/educational-materials.html.
This document from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, provides guidance to help reduce the spread of seasonal influenza (flu) among students and staff in K-12 schools. Recommendations are based on CDC’s current knowledge of flu in the United States. CDC will continue to monitor flu activity and update this guidance as needed.
Each day, about 55 million students and 7 million staff attend the more than 130,000 public and private schools in the United States. By implementing the recommendations in this document, schools can help protect one-fifth of the country’s population from flu. Collaboration is essential. CDC, the U.S. Department of Education, state/local public health and education agencies, schools, staff, students, families, businesses, and communities should work together to reduce the spread of flu and other respiratory infections.
School-aged children are at high risk of flu complications
People of all ages get sick with flu. School-aged children are a group with a high rate of flu illness. Vaccination to prevent influenza is particularly important for people who are at high risk of serious complications from influenza
- Encourage students and staff to stay home when sick.
- Encourage respiratory etiquette among students and staff through education and the provision of supplies
- Encourage hand hygiene among students and staff through education, scheduled time for handwashing, and the provision of supplies.
- Encourage students and staff to keep their hands away from their nose, mouth, and eyes.
- Encourage routine surface cleaning through education, policy, and the provision of supplies
- Educate students, parents, and staff on what to do if someone gets sick.
- Teach students, parents, and staff the signs and symptoms of flu, emergency warning signs, and high risk groups
- Separate sick students and staff from others until they can be picked up to go home
- Encourage students, parents, and staff to take antiviral drugs if their health care professional prescribes them
- Establish relationships with state and local public health officials for ongoing communication
SOURCE: “Guidance for School Administrators to Help Reduce the Spread of Seasonal Influenza in K-12 Schools.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 31 July 2018, www.cdc.gov/flu/school/guidance.htm.
The U.S. Department of Education (the Department) Office of Safe and Supportive Schools (OSSS) and its REMS TA Center have been providing many supports to education agencies as they prepare for and engage in continuity, response, and recovery efforts related to the pandemic.
School EOPs In-Depth: Planning for Infectious Diseases Online Course
Take this online course to learn how to develop an Infectious Disease Annex and begin infectious disease planning at your school.
SPECIALIZED TRAINING PACKAGES
Download this training package to learn and train colleagues on how to incorporate infectious disease planning into a school emergency operations plan.
School Decision Tree
REMS TA Center Website
- 12 schools and institutions of higher education (IHEs).
- Topic-Specific Resources to Support Your Emergency Management Planning
- Hazards and Threats
- Biological Hazards
What’s on This Page?
Resources from the REMS TA Center, U.S. Department of Education, and federal agency partners on the topic of addressing a variety of biological hazards within K-12 schools and IHEs. The hazard types are organized alphabetically, along with the resources associated with each hazard. View the latest recommendations specific to COVID-19 from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. Department of Education, and the REMS TA Center via this page.
SOURCE: “Addressing Biological Hazards That May Impact Students, Staff, and Visitors.” REMS TA Center Website, rems.ed.gov/Resources_Hazards_Threats_Biological_Hazards.aspx.