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Is a Panic Button the "Easy Button" For School Safety, or Is It Really Just the First Step?

Carolyn Vento
September 7, 2022
With all eyes on school safety, it’s tempting to believe that no problem is too big or complicated that it can’t be solved with a single push of a button. Anyone can easily press a panic alarm, with no training needed. It also meets the requirements of Alyssa’s law, which calls for the installation of silent panic alarms that are directly linked to law enforcement in several states.
But is this “easy button” a stand-alone fix for school safety? What about other components such as drills, threat assessments, two-way communication, and a thorough reunification process? Critics say school officials are scrambling to show action to worried parents, but in their haste may be emphasizing the wrong things. We need to remove the false perception that there is a single solution to make schools safe, as opposed to an ecosystem of effective systems, tools, and training.
Let’s explore how panic buttons alone are not enough to carefully cover the following four phases of emergency management:
If your school only provides staff with panic buttons, they will not have the ability to report an incident that’s not yet a critical event, as they would with a mobile app. This lack of differentiation in threat levels leads to the possibility of false alarms and confusion for all stakeholders and first responders. Furthermore, panic buttons do not contribute to the prevention phase as far as reporting risks, assessing student threats, and managing facility audits.
There are limitations to panic buttons such as battery life and the fact that people must remember to wear them or know where to locate them if they’re stationary. You must ensure that everyone knows where to go and how to keep themselves safe after the button is pressed. You can accomplish this task by choosing a digital platform for your safety plans, so everyone will have immediate access to your emergency plans when needed.
A panic button is known to be a good instant alert tool, but it's not enough for ongoing communication. It doesn't provide any words or specificity, so when the first responders come they won’t know what to expect. You want as much redundancy as possible when it comes to emergency tools so that there are options and backups in case anything fails. Real-time safety status, situational awareness, mission-critical task management, 2-way messaging, and staff assistance are all critical in addition to panic buttons.
Recovery should be part of your school safety plan from the start. A panic button would best be used with a mobile application used for communicating, reporting, and accounting for your students during reunification. This complete system is the most effective way for reuniting your students with their parents as quickly as possible.
There are people who believe that a panic button can be used for anything, but fail to think about how it can only be used for one thing at any given time. In reality, a panic button works best as part of an emergency management system. When you combine different technologies that people feel good about using, then you have greater adoption, more participation, and, in many cases, much better outcomes.
CrisisGo offers an easy-to-install, easy-to-use, physical wireless panic button system, Safety OneClick, that’s powered by Amazon Web Services and utilizes LoRaWAN technology. We recognize that our panic button becomes more valuable when used in conjunction with other life-saving tools, such as our leading platform and emergency solution, Safety iResponse, which delivers undisputed reliability, top-level security, and unmatched integration capabilities. We hope the current trending panic button discussions open the door to more people talking about emergency communication, coordination, management, training, evacuations, and more. Panic buttons are necessary and beneficial to school safety, but they are one of many tools needed and just the first step to responding effectively to any type of critical event.

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