How to thoughtfully implement panic buttons into your school safety plan

During an emergency situation, there is nothing more important than response time. A single minute can be the difference between help arriving on time versus too late. In fact, the average school shooting lasts 12.5 minutes, while the average police response time is 18 minutes. There is no time to waste when something goes awry, especially in a school.

Anyone who has worked in the education field can tell you that there is no such thing as a typical school day–whether it’s a burst pipe, student fight, an intruder, or an allergic reaction, no two days are ever the same and they rarely go according to plan. In these situations, teachers and staff should have a way to summon help quickly and easily, and a great tool for this is a panic button.

Why panic buttons?

Panic buttons give teachers and other staff the ability to trigger a safety response plan with the simple press of a button, relieving a lot of stress and potential for mistakes during an emergency situation. For instance, if a teacher sees a suspicious person in their school, they shouldn’t have to spend time trying to figure out what they should do. Instead, there should be set protocol for them to use their panic button to alert people of the situation immediately. This ensures that every second is being optimally utilized and that emergency help is alerted in real-time.

How does a panic button fit into my emergency response plan?

The concept of a panic button is simple, but it’s important to make sure a well thought out response plan is fully formed before a panic button is put into use. A panic button alerts outside resources that an emergency is occurring to set the right response in motion. However, not all emergencies require the same response, so it’s important to ensure that the right people are responding to the right emergencies.

For example, a physical fight in the classroom will likely require the response of a resource officer, whereas a student having an allergic reaction will require the school nurse with an EpiPen or even an emergency medical technician. A panic button isn’t very helpful if the right people aren’t responding to the situation. Fortunately, there are several ways to ensure an emergency is met with the correct responder when using panic buttons.

Choosing the right kind of panic button

Panic buttons are not one-size-fits-all. The right type of panic button can help ensure that a school’s emergencies are met with the right response. Panic buttons are available as wearable pendants, fixed buttons on a wall, or desktop and mobile applications.

To start, administration should determine which option – or options — is the best fit for their school. If the goal of installing panic buttons is to be able to send the school into lockdown, then a wearable pendant for teachers is a great option. However, if a school wants to be able to alert responders of different emergency situations with panic buttons, then a desktop or mobile version would be a good choice. With these mobile/desktop applications, multiple buttons can be customized to a school’s specific needs. For example, some options for customizable buttons could be “Intruder,” “Physical Fight,” “Allergic Reaction,” or “Medical Emergency”.

Another option for schools that want multi-use panic buttons would be “hot keys.” “Hot keys” refer to a specific combination of keys on a computer’s keyboard that is assigned to send out an alert. When a teacher or staff member enters one of the combinations of keys their school has designated as a “hot key,” an alert can be delivered to the right people to get help.

Creating an emergency response plan

Once a school or district has decided what situations they plan to use panic buttons for, as well as the types of panic buttons that are best suited for those situations, they can make a full safety response plan. The plan should include who receives the alerts triggered by panic buttons, what the following course of action is, and who is responsible for executing that response.

For example, if a teacher presses a panic button because they believe there is an intruder, first-responders should receive a direct alert, but there should also be a plan for all of the teachers, students, and staff to follow. An emergency response safety plan can only be properly executed when everyone is aware of what their responsibility is during an emergency.

By installing panic buttons, schools can take a huge step forward in protecting their staff and students–but it doesn’t stop there. Panic buttons serve one function—they alert someone of an emergency. It’s the response to that alert that will ultimately determine the outcome of the situation. Administration must take the proper steps before panic buttons are ever deployed in their schools to ensure they will reach their desired safety outcomes and protect the lives of their students and staff members. At the end of the day, a tool like a panic button alone will not fix a safety issue alone, but if thoughtfully implemented, the people who use it can.

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