Bethlehem Press

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

BASD Facilities meeting centers on safety

Monday, April 30, 2018 by Heather Nigrone Special to the Bethlehem Press in Local News

It’s a scenario that nobody wants to experience, but everyone wants to be prepared for: an armed gunman entering a school with the intent to inflict harm. But after reaching out to students and parents alike, Bethlehem Area School District realized, that it’s no longer a silent taboo, but an important topic to discuss precautions and appropriate responses, so that student’s know their educators can also step into the role of protectors in a heartbeat.

At the April 9, 2018 school board facilities meeting, the board presented a safety and security update, which tied into a presentation for new district wide emergency management software. The district currently protects students with what they call an “all hazards approach”, whereby the district is prepared for responses to every possible emergency. This includes detailed response plans, practice drills and valuable community partnerships. The plans are memorialized in a massive binder of responses and best practices, which is currently kept at each school. But in light of recent events, BASD directors have also realized that in emergency situations, time to review a binder does not always exist. That is why the district has partnered with NaviGate, a digital software company from Ohio, that would turn every teacher and administrators cellphone into an emergency response system.

NaviGate Prepared is a cellphone based software that BASD plans to launch at each school. With the software, if an active shooter or other emergency situation occurs, teachers and staff will have the capability to initiate a lockdown of school property right from their phones. The software would also allow district staff to push emergency related messages out to the phones, so alerts that may not be appropriate to broadcast over the intercom can safely reach all staff. The app also accounts for each and every student by name, using a classroom roster feature, so teachers and administrators can be certain that every student in the building is properly located and protected.

In addition to assisting in responses for shooter situations, the app will also give teachers the ability to obtain medical assistance. For instance, if a student in their classroom is diabetic, or suffers from a medical ailment, the teacher would have that information and be able to request paramedics if required. The app will also allow the district to upload detailed floor plans of buildings, so if medical, fire or other emergency personnel need to respond, they are able to use the app to find quick access, and also know where potential hazards, such as storage for chemistry labs, would be located.

However, the software isn’t the only important partnership BASD is expanding. In addition to the police forces of each municipality within BASD areas, other local police forces are reaching out to ensure the safety of BASD students. The police departments of both Lehigh University and Moravian College have pledged their services as first responders to any BASD building located close to their campuses. The software proposal was voted on and approved at the April school board meeting. The district is hopeful that combining this software with existing plans and future proposed relationship and behavioral support within the school, they can continue to avoid tragedy.