CrisisGo, Sonim partner on FirstNet-capable, emergency-communications application for schools
Personnel on school campuses throughout the United States have access to an emergency-communications platform that can leverage the FirstNet system built by AT&T, thanks to a partnership announced yesterday by CrisisGo and Sonim Technologies.
Stacey Sisk, CrisisGo vice president of business development, said the CrisisGo platform—available via download for use on virtually any smartphones, tablets and computers—is designed to help school personnel prepare for myriad types of emergencies and respond most appropriately to such situations when they arise. Supporting the sharing of information via voice, text, data and video, the platform is operational over any IP connection, including commercial LTE and the Wi-Fi systems that are pervasive at many school campuses, he said.
At the heart of CrisisGo are three communications options that users can execute during an emergency: call 911, send a panic signal to a specific group of team members, or send an alert that is received by everyone associated with the use of CrisisGo on the campus.
“When they set off an alert, that is meant to be, ‘We have a situation that’s happening. It’s going down, so we need let everybody know to get themselves safe and be prepared for this,’” Sisk said during an interview with IWCE’s Urgent Communications. “When they hit that alert button, it’s going out to everybody in the group, and it’s going out with tone, and it’s overriding everything.
“Not only is it going out to everybody in their building, but—if they want to—they can turn on what we call ‘Escalation.’ When they do that, it’s also going to go off to the responding agencies—like local law enforcement and first responders—that they have set up to respond to their organization.”
For most schools, this highest level of alert notifications—delivered with loud audible tones that override mute buttons and volume controls on the device—is reserved for active-shooter scenarios, according to Sisk.
CrisisGo provides these basic options on most devices, but the partnership with Sonim Technologies lets users execute their choice more efficiently by leveraging the red button on the side of the Sonim XP8 ultra-rugged smartphone, Sisk said.
“They’ve got the red button on the side, and we’ve programmed CrisisGo into these phones that are delivered to their educational customers and law enforcement,” he said. “Once they receive the device, all they have to do is scan a QR code that will access the Sonim [Scout cloud solution]. It will then program the device to activate those buttons to do the things that we’ve developed for them within our platform, and it will load the CrisisGo application on the device.
“When they hit that red button on the side [of the Sonim XP8], they pick whether they want to call 911, set off a personal panic—kind of like a staff assist button—or do they want to set off an alert.”
Sisk said that the programmed red button on the Sonim XP8 can save time that otherwise would be spent working through the CrisisGo menu. In addition, the Sonim XP8 has a dedicated push-to-talk button to enable quick voice communications with talk groups and is a FirstNet Ready device, meaning qualified personnel have priority and preemption on even a crowded AT&T network and can interoperate with FirstNet-equipped first responders.
Bob Escalle, Sonim Technologies’ vice president for public-safety market segments, said his company has been working with CrisisGo for about a year to deliver the joint solution, which is being unveiled at this week’s National Conference of Education.
“It’s a neat partnership,” Escalle said during an interview with IWCE’s Urgent Communications. “I think what they’re doing for school safety is fantastic.”
Sonim Technologies CEO Bob Plaschke echoed this sentiment.
“We want schools to experience the same benefits that Sonim’s technology brings to public safety, and this partnership makes that possible,” Plaschke said in a prepared statement. “Our purpose-built mobile devices and partnerships are helping to equip our nation’s schools with the technology they need to better support vulnerable people and help first responders.
“And, with the XP8’s ability to tap into the power of FirstNet, we’re able to take our innovative, integrated solutions to the next level, helping to ensure those critical to the public safety response have the rapid, reliable communications they need.”
Sisk also expressed optimism about the partnership with Sonim.
“I’d say that the biggest thing with Sonim is that I really do like the push-to-talk capability these devices have,” Sisk said. “But probably the most important thing that I see is the ability for these safety teams to have access to FirstNet. Because, during any emergency, we know that those cell towers are immediately overloaded. [FirstNet] ensures that the safety team that really is responsible for the safety of all these kids … have connectivity—not only to manage the incident but, more importantly, connectivity to the first responders throughout the incident.”
Bob Sloan, chief operating officer for FirstNet at AT&T, said such solutions are representative of the type of innovation that public safety needs on the FirstNet system.
“FirstNet is a force for good. It’s driving public safety-focused innovation to help advance first responders’ communications capabilities, so they can enhance the safety and security of the communities they serve,” Sloan said in a prepared statement. “Collaborative efforts like this are integral to supporting the betterment of public safety communications through FirstNet, connecting first responders to innovative tools that will aid in their situational awareness and help them achieve positive outcomes.”
Beyond its basic package, CrisisGo also supports additional tools that can be integrated into the platform that are designed to improve the ability for a school campus to prevent emergencies and respond as efficiently as possible when incidents do occur, Sisk said.
Preparation tools include a drill-management system and digital emergency checklists that identify each person’s responsibilities, based on the situation, Sisk said.
“We take their emergency plans and parse those out into emergency checklists, not only by the emergency type but your role within the organization,” he said. “If we have a hurricane coming, a teacher has these five steps that they’re responsible for. If you’ re a principal or a member of the safety team, you’ve got these other five steps you’re responsible for.
“It knows what their role is, and it knows what alert went off, so then it shows a reminder as to, ‘Here are the things you need to do.’ They can check them off when they get to safety or use them to refresh their memory—if adrenaline kicks in and they forget what they’re supposed to do, they have something to refer to.”
When an emergency occurs, schools subscribing to the full CrisisGo suite can access maps of the campus that include information about the location of AEDs and shut-off valve. The platform also supports systems that make it easier for school personnel to track staff and students, they can account for all people on campus during and after an incident.
In addition, CrisisGo offers an anonymous reporting system that is designed to help school officials identify potential issues in infrastructure, students and personnel, so they can be addressed before an emergency affecting those groups occurs, Sisk said.
CrisisGo is being used by about 15,000 of the 100,000 schools nationwide, according to Sisk. The basic version of CrisisGo is free, but the full suite of additional tools costs “just over” $1,000 per year per campus, he said.
“What we see usually is that they mass deploy it on every device that is district-owned,” Sisk said. “So, most of the kids are all using Chromebooks or tablets of some kind, all of the teachers have desktops, laptops or both, and they mass deploy all of the devices at one time. So, when they hit an alert, you know it—it’s going off on every device in the entire building. We make sure people know that they need to get to safety.”