School Safety

School Emergency: The 7 Best Communication Methods

School safety can be a sore subject, especially for those who have experienced the horrific results of a breach in safety. When David Wheeler’s son, Ben, was killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting, Mr Wheeler expressed disappointment and pain at a breakdown in communication. At a teleconference with the Sandy Hook Advisory Commission, he gently admonished the commission for a lack of contact. Who could blame him? He wasn’t able to contact the superintendent for two weeks after the incident.

Open communications with concerned parties is a huge part of school safety. It helps assure individuals like David Wheeler that the authorities are doing everything they can to ensure safety. During an emergency, effective communication is priority number one.

To ensure safety and proper communication in schools, we need to take advantage of technology. Here are seven excellent tools for maximum campus safety.

Two-way Radios

The emergency standby, two-way radios are a good tool for quick and efficient communications when an emergency strikes. Now, some cell phones also have a walky-talky feature. Having walky-talkies available is invaluable because they allow for instant communication at the time of an emergency — no fumbling with unlock screens, no searching for anyone in your contact list. And, if cell phone lines and land lines are down, radio communications are the default emergency contact method, because you can get in touch with police, firemen, and HAM radio operators.

Wireless Panic Button

The wireless panic button is a relatively new tool. It’s placed on a pendant. Like two-way radios, panic buttons allow you to communicate quickly at the moment of an emergency with the push of a button. Administrators can decide to route the emergency signal directly to first responders, or through a national monitoring center. Additionally, wireless panic buttons can instantly send pre-programmed SMS text messages or email.

Mass Notification System

Mass notification (MNS) technology provides a means of alert similar to a fire alarm, but it incorporates intelligible voice communication and visual signals. This is meant to be the end-all-be-all of emergency alerts. New MNS systems are very specific concerning the instructions they relay to students, based on what type of emergency you’re dealing with. These systems must be up to National Fire Protection Association code. A distributed recipient option allows you to alert people through all communication channels, including satellite TV and radio.


Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) is a method of communicating with cell phones that cuts down on costs and can be useful in an emergency. VoIP utilizes existing internet service to convert a phone’s signal and send it over the internet. Anywhere you can get WiFi on campus, you can get VoIP. This way, any member of school staff can receive a phone call through the school’s internet connection, as opposed to needing a cell phone with a plan. VoIP can replace traditional landlines, and it can also replace in-classroom intercoms with an option that automatically switches to speaker-phone.

Social Media and the Internet

The internet is now so ubiquitous, it’s sure to be a communications channel parents and students will check, post-emergency. Now, approved organizations can issue Twitter alerts when an emergency happens. Recent studies show 24% of teens are online almost constantly, while 92% are online every day. Social media is garnering notice as an emergency communications tool, with schools in Pasco County, Florida using it to control the information they disseminate, in collaboration with the police department. The more proactive schools are on social media, the less likely disinformation is to spread.

In terms of email, the Email Statistics Report from Radicati Group reports that people are sending and receiving less emails now, although there are more email accounts. Email is growing as a business tool, but in terms of personal use, people are “opting instead for other forms of communication such as social networking sites, instant messaging, Mobile IM, and SMS/text messaging.” In other words, for urgent contact, social networks, instant messaging, and text are more likely to get instant attention. Emails, however, are an effective tool for post-emergency relay of information, in so far as almost everyone has an account.


Fax? Although this method of communication may seem outdated, schools still have fax machines and they can be very useful for emergencies. Fax lines don’t get tied up like regular phone lines — schools can send and receive faxes to and from agencies with ease. For quick transmission of medical release forms, and medical information, fax is especially pertinent. Unlike email and internet communications, faxes can’t get hacked.


Phone communications can be tricky because everyone uses the phone after an emergency. During an emergency, 911 operators can’t necessarily track where cell phones are calling from, according to a study from USA Today. But after the smoke has cleared, a personal phone call from authorities to individuals who have been victimized by violence or by accident will help put people at ease. A simple phone call can also help instill confidence.

In Conclusion

No one would want to be David Wheeler, in the dark after his son was shot at Sandy Hook Elementary. Oftentimes, the best way to help a victim’s family is to talk to them. No matter what the emergency, if we keep a cool head and communicate clearly with effective tools, we’re that much closer to a resolution.

Robert Leavitt

Top Posts | Education Technology

Teachers Advised Adoption of Technology

We now live in a digital age. Our world is basically run by technology on a variety levels in multiple settings and disciplines. Wherever we look, whatever we do, the impact of technology is apparent and undeniable.As we move forward, our use and reliance on technology will only increase and if we ...

Embracing Discovery Education Technology

Anyone who has spent some time browsing through different channels on cable TV looking for something good to watch on a lazy day has most likely stumbled on the Discovery Channel, one of the better known education channels that feature a huge variety of topics that cover the sciences, nature, healt ...

9 Hot Jobs of 2015 in the US

There is an ebb and flow to popularity and trends in every aspect of life. Especially with the internet, what’s in and what’s not travels to all corners of the globe at lightening quick speeds. Whether it’s the newest thing in music, the latest fashion trend, or the most popular t ... ...

Is Educational Software a Good Thing?

Education is rapidly catching up with the technological revolution, and educational software now forms a key element of regular lesson plans.  Homework and revision even takes place over the internet using interactive software packages, rather than traditional books and written test papers.&nb ... ...

Apple Watch to Aid Special Education

The way technology has progressed in the past few years is nothing short of miraculous. There was a time when the computer was the hot new machine that everyone was raving about. Then came smartphones, which boasted almost all the features of a computer in a palm friendly body. And while the world ...

Results are the Only Thing that Matters in Ed-Tech

The use of technology for an improved learning experience, or ed-tech, has become a hot topic in today’s world of education. Ed-tech makes use of several tools, such as multimedia and networking, to enhance the quality and delivery of education. At the end of the day, the only thing that real ... ...

Special Students Are Being Ignored in Edu Tech

Physically challenged people are “special” in a sense because they lack the functionality of one or more sense(s) that “normal” people often take for granted. People with disabilities are in such a physical condition, not because they chose to be that way but because they we ... ...

6 Examples of Assistive Technology in the Classroom

The idea of including special needs children in the regular classroom has become the backbone of many school systems. Researchers believe that inclusion helps to create well-balanced individuals and an excellent learning environment. However, this can be challenging for teachers as they have to seg ...

New Approaches to Designing Educational Technologies

David Rose’s MissionDavid Rose, a neuropsychologist from Boston, Massachusetts, is the co-founder and chief education officer of the Center for Applied Special Technology. The center designs digital textbooks to help children with learning disabilities. These creative textbooks, with features ... ...