In an active shooter drill, the process of reunification was conducted twice — once using an emergency management system and once using paper-and-pencil.
Like so many others in similar roles, emergency planners in Livingston County (Mich.) wanted to ensure they were doing everything in their power to keep students safe in the event of a school emergency.
In the fall of 2016, Livingston County Emergency Planning and Response Director Therese Cremonte began meeting with various school districts in the county — which serves 6,000 students in eight schools with 400 staff members — to create and coordinate emergency plans.
Cremonte believes while law enforcement has improved its real-time incident response, there hasn’t been enough focus on recovery.
“We needed a blueprint for disaster — from emergency first response to human services,” she said. “But what I really wanted was to pay attention to post-incident recovery.”
In particular, Cremonte and her team wanted to fully understand the ins and outs of off-site parent-student reunification following a crisis, including student management, transportation and panic control, among other things. To do this, emergency planners set up a mock event at a parochial school in the spring of 2017.
Although pleased with the results, emergency leaders didn’t think the “modest” drill was enough, including Christopher Parks, Brighton High School Resource Officer and member of the Brighton Police Department.
“We had to scale up. Any real incident was going to involve more resources, more buildings, more students, more parents — with more potential for confusion,” recalled Parks. “So I wanted a much bigger drill in March 2018.”
Brighton Emergency Personnel Kick it Up a Notch
Emergency leaders began searching for a solution that could help integrate their emergency processes, including drill management, active incident response and reunification.
More than 240 volunteers participated, including media, EMS, fire, police, district staff, Livingston County emergency staff, students and parents.
Parks kicked off the mock event by initiating the incident in the Raptor app. First responders attended to “injured” students, cleared classrooms and directed “uninjured” students to a designated transport area to be bussed to a pre-determined off-site reunification area.
Parents were notified of the “incident” and the reunification process was conduced twice — first using the Raptor system and then using only paper-and-pencil forms and walk-talkie communications.
The first process took under 20 minutes to reunite parents and students. The second reunification took an hour and a half — over four times longer than when the Raptor system was used. That was enough to convince emergency personnel.
By fall of 2018, Brighton officials began implementing the Raptor system throughout the entire school district.
“The advantages of the Raptor system over standard paper-and-pencil processing were obvious,” said Parks. “Simultaneous communications and the ability to give multiple incident leaders updated status reports in an instant — the ability to monitor status without a lot of confusing chatter — plus the accountability: we knew where resources were needed and the app freed personnel to be shifted appropriately.”
Using the Raptor app, emergency leaders were able to track which students were injured, where they were and their unique medical information. They were also able to see who was being transported and when — something paper-and-pencil tracking does not allow for.
“The fact that parents could see incident leaders tracking their kids on their phones or tablets in the app in real-time meant that they knew things were under control,” said Cremonte. “It really calmed parents’ nerves.”