Building Partnerships Between Schools and Public Safety

Posted at April 29, 2022
Building Partnerships Between Schools and Public Safety

Mutualink and Raptor Technologies talk with senior law enforcement leaders on how to create effective panic alarm systems for schools.

Byline: Mutualink Staff

Last month Mutualink and Raptor Technologies hosted a webinar featuring senior public safety leaders talking about how to foster more effective partnerships between schools and law enforcement. The past few years have seen a significant rise in school violence, according to the Report on Indicators of School Crime and Safety: 2020, published by the Department of Education.

These leaders have spent decades on the front line working closely with school officials and law enforcement, educating and advocating for best practices when responding to a crisis. Chief Frank Kitzerow, Chief Craig Miller, Mutualink’s Chrissie Coon, and Raptor’s Curtis Ryan shared their perspectives.

About the Panelists

Chief Frank Kitzerow has over 40 years of experience in law enforcement, including 18 years as a police chief in both traditional and school-based policing. He most recently served as the chief of police and school safety specialist for the 10th largest school district in the United States in Palm Beach County, Florida. Chief Kitzerow also serves as president of the National Association of School and Campus Police Chiefs (NASCPC).

Chief Craig Miller spent 37 years protecting the citizens of Dallas, Texas. He began his career as a sworn police officer in 1982, then rose to the rank of Deputy Chief of the Dallas Police force – the eighth largest force in the U.S. - before retiring in 2011. He then became the Chief of Police for the Dallas Independent School District (ISD), the 14th largest public school district in the United States.

Chrissie Coon is Mutualink’s chief customer experience officer. She served for 15 years as a sworn police officer in the North Las Vegas police department. Chrissie also spent five years as a senior public safety advisor to the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet). FirstNet Authority was chartered in 2012 by Congress to ensure the building, deployment, and operation of a nationwide broadband network that equips first responders to save lives and protect U.S. communities.

Curtis Ryan is the chief sales officer for Raptor Technologies. He has over 25 years of leadership experience with cutting-edge software companies. His team at Raptor works with over 50,000 K12 schools in the US and the UK. They provide comprehensive school safety alert capabilities and panic alarm systems for schools.

Building Partnerships

Chiefs Kitzerow and Miller both agreed that personal relationships are critical for stronger partnerships between schools and law enforcement. This means going beyond simply knowing your points of contact, it means conducting pre-planning with all the different parties included. Everyone must understand their role, or chaos can ensue after a disaster.

Chief Kitzerow shared how just two weeks into his role as chief there was a shooting in the parking lot of a Friday night football game. With no effective plan in place, over 200 officers descended on the scene, causing traffic issues and confusion. That incident spurred the development of an emergency plan that encompassed 23 municipalities with clear roles and responsibilities.

Chief Miller pointed out that police will always be inclined to take action, but effective action requires accurate information. For example, police might decide a school needs to be locked down, yet parents will arrive at the school desperate to know about their children. If the educational communications network and law enforcement interoperate as part of the panic alarm system for schools, accurate information can be shared and an efficient reunification process can be implemented.

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Preparedness

All the panelists agreed that practice makes perfect when it comes to emergency operations plans (EOPs). Chief Miller pointed out that every school in Texas has to have an EOP in place, but many times those plans are not integrated with local police. Can they communicate in real-time? He shared that when he was head of Dallas ISD his radios were not interoperable with the radios used by Dallas PD.

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Chief Kitzerow talked about recent legislation passed in Arizona that mandates a certain number of safety drills and establishes metrics to track their effectiveness. Police leaders need to train their team and all first responders together. They need to answer questions such as can all parties communicate, what you want staff to do in an emergency, what children should do, and how parents need to respond.

Chief Kitzerow proposed three questions to ask of anyone in schools or law enforcement who thinks their emergency plan is a strong one.

To the administrator:
“What, exactly, connects your emergency plan to law enforcement?”

To a senior police official:
“In the case of a school emergency, where is reunification with parents supposed to occur?”

“How will you communicate with the multiple different agencies responding to the event?”

The Importance of the Right Technology

An effective panic alarm system for schools needs the right technology to save lives.

Chrissie talked about the technology behind the Raptor panic button apps. Behind those buttons is a hardware and software system that immediately connects with the local public safety access point (PSAP), alerting public safety leadership and first responders. The emergency network is then able to share pictures, floor plans, and real-time video that can save lives in the critical 4-7 minute window of a crisis.

Curtis pointed out that when you combine Raptor’s presence in thousands of schools with Mutualink technology, you immediately automate multiple tasks that in the past were manual. One push of a button initiates an incident report to 911, the PSAP, and all responding units. This type of coordination isn’t just vital in cases of school violence. Curtis talked about a recent gas leak and the school safety director was able to coordinate the evacuation of the school with his smartphone.

The above is just a snippet of this valuable conversation. The need for effective panic alarm systems for schools has never been more urgent. To listen to the full webinar click here.

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