Choosing school safety software: identify needs, research, consider user experience, and evaluate support.
School security has become an increasingly important issue in recent years, with administrators and district leaders alike looking for effective ways to keep their students safe. One critical element of any school’s emergency planning is the selection of appropriate safety software. However, with so many options available, it can be challenging to know where to begin. In this post, we'll explore some best practices for selecting school safety software.
Before selecting any safety software, it's crucial to identify your school community’s unique risks and needs. Consider the size and layout of your campus, the number of students and staff, and the types of hazards & threats that are native to your community. The best way to identify these needs is through a Risk & Vulnerability Assessment performed by a district admin, facilities director, and a security professional. Particularly in rural school communities, it’s important to know how far away and how long it takes for first responders to get to your location, along with what emergency resources are available. In this situation, the school would want to consider a system that provides actionable information to first responders before they arrive on the scene. Understanding your needs will help you narrow down the options and select a system that is best suited to your school community.
Once you have a clear understanding of your needs, it's time to research your options. Unfortunately, the school safety and security market is flooded with piecemeal solutions that only account for one or two elements of an emergency, so it’s imperative that all things are considered during the selection process. Start by consulting with other schools in your area to find out what safety software they're using and how well it's working for them; nothing reveals more about a system’s flaws than putting it into daily use. Communicating with adjacent school communities may not lead you to the most fitting solution for you, but it will most certainly identify the solutions that are defective or otherwise not worth your time.
When selecting safety software, it's important to consider the user experience. Your administrators will be responsible for operating the system, so it's essential that it be user-friendly and intuitive. Look for a system that offers a clear, easy-to-use interface and requires minimal training. Additionally, try to conceptualize how much “tech debt” is attached to this product. Will there be constant updates? Will this system require multiple logins and software platforms? Is this system comprehensive enough? Answering these questions will identify if the system is only going to add to your workload, rather than alleviating it for you. The ideal solution should allow your district and local administrators to use fewer work hours, spend less energy, and further their understanding of the safety software.
Finally, it's important to evaluate the technical support and training that will be available for your safety software. Look for a provider that offers comprehensive training for your staff, as well as ongoing technical support to help address any issues that arise. Additionally, consider the in-house expertise that your provider has to offer. If the company that built this product isn’t bolstered by leadership with years of experience in school communities, emergency management, or experience with district administration, they may not have the perspective necessary to tailor a system to your needs.
Selecting the right safety software for your school is a critical decision that requires careful consideration. By identifying your needs, researching your options, considering the user experience, assessing integration with existing systems, and evaluating technical support and training, you can select a system that will help keep your students and staff safe and secure.