Approaching school safety from a proactive perspective

NaviGate Prepared provides schools with a virtual safety response tool to develop and execute an effective safety program

Joseph V. Erardi Jr. served as superintendent of Newtown Public Schools in Connecticut from 2014 until his retirement in August. During his tenure, the district implemented NaviGate Prepared as a component of a broad safety and security initiative undertaken in the aftermath of the 2012 tragedy there.

Talk about preparation versus prevention when it comes to a school district’s safety plan.

The proactive safety plan is a plan that’s never complete. From a proactive perspective, time is treasure in a tragedy. For every second you can save, you can save a life. It was our belief that if we could become more efficient with best practices, then that was to everyone’s great advantage. We vetted dozens of product software applications and that’s how NaviGate Prepared came to Newtown. The software fosters a partnership with local safety officials and allows us to mitigate any lost time if there was an incident or an emergency, in any room or in any building within the school district. That was the reason I felt so strongly about bringing NaviGate Prepared into Newtown.

Talk about the communication needs around an emergency.

NaviGate Prepared allows us to get the best information in the least alarming way to those who need the information the most. If we have an issue with a gas smell in a science lab at the high school, NaviGate Prepared gives a 360-degree view of every classroom. NaviGate Prepared also enables secure text messaging between staff and administrators. This provides critical information during an emergency and can help ensure accurate information is shared with first responders, including the ability to account for nearly 4,500 students by name in any emergency situation across any of the district’s nine schools. If the school building needs evacuation, teachers can bring up class rosters on their smartphone or tablet and account for students. Administrators can see who is accounted for and who is not on their mobile device or computer. Teachers and administrators having this type of critical information at their fingertips can save precious time and help direct response efforts. It allows for the absolute safest approach for those responding to the issue. It’s very sophisticated and spot-on.

Did Newtown run safety drills or tabletop simulations?

We probably ran more sophisticated emergency drills than most school districts in the country. We would run tabletop simulations at least three times per year with 40 to 60 people involved, everyone from first responders, town employees, town leaders, school leaders and school staff. We have a very sophisticated emergency preparedness program. I also met with every new staff member so there would be no new staff member who didn’t fully understand how to keep themselves or other students in their jurisdiction safe.

While you can’t get complacent, does the current safety program, aligned with NaviGate Prepared, offer some peace of mind?

Everybody knows there’s no day off with school safety. Navigate Prepared software allows us a terrific opportunity to record what we’re doing, and to learn from how we are doing it, when it comes to our safety plans. When I am looking in the rearview mirror, NaviGate Prepared was the right decision and it will be an ongoing tool for Newtown schools. You never want to get comfortable, but when you do get to put your head to bed, you should believe that you have the absolute best opportunity in place to keep your students and staff safe. NaviGate Prepared allows us to do that.

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