Updated from the original post in November 2014.
Today, we welcome guest blogger, John Kozlowsky from Nureva Inc. Nureva sells and develops best-in-class technology products focused on K–12 education and enterprise markets.
ePACT is included as part of Nureva’s technology solutions and John had an opportunity to explore how ePACT supports the storage and use of emergency contact information for students and schools.
One trend that I have seen this fall at education conferences is the focus on emergency preparedness and products that are designed to help. Events over the past decade have brought this area to the forefront.
We now live in an incredibly connected world through phone, e-mail and texting, and we have the ability to reach out in an emergency in ways that we never could before. For schools, it starts with the annual, back-to-school ritual of filling out emergency contact, medical, immunization, authorization and consent forms.
Have you ever thought about how much paper this beginning of the year ritual consumes? How much does it actually cost to manage this process (print, distribute, collect and input)? Where is this information stored in case of an emergency? What if the district or school could push an electronic version of these forms out to all the guardians of their students? The guardians complete the information online and share it with the district, so the district can print the forms and access them online if needed. A really novel application called ePACT (epactnetwork.com) comes into play in this scenario.
Every year in North America, over 900,000,000 emergency and medical forms are filled out by families for school, sports and community events. A lot of paper is saved by an application like ePACT. And since the information is provided electronically by the guardians of the students, many hours are freed up by not having staff manually input (and sometimes decipher) the forms. Because the information can be updated by the guardians and emergency contacts as needed (for example, new allergy diagnosed or an address change), a system like ePACT will ensure that a district or school has the most up-to-date information that the families or contacts have provided. No more paperwork getting lost in backpacks or information that is illegible and inaccurate.
Once the district or school has the information provided by the parents or guardians, ePACT really shines. The method of storing and using the emergency contact information in the event of an emergency or crisis works whether it’s a single student, many students or every student.
Maybe the bus is running late. Perhaps a student has become ill or injured in class, in a sporting event or on a field trip. Maybe there is a serious situation (for example, an earthquake or fire). The key is how quickly staff can access the emergency contact information and reach those contacts. Traditionally, this information is stored in binders in the central office of the school and district. If an emergency is off school grounds or requires the evacuation of a building where the binders are located, how can emergency contacts be reached quickly, if at all?
ePACT overcomes these potential issues by providing an app that can be installed on any Android, Blackberry or iOS device that is password protected and has the student emergency contact and medical information. It can be broken down based on the level of authority a staff member has, and administrators can have the contact information for all students and staff. Teachers and coaches can have the information for just the students they are responsible for. In the event of a situation where emergency contacts need to be reached, they can be notified instantly via phone, e-mail or text through the ePACT app as long as there is Internet. No need to carry paper versions of this information, which can be out of date or lost, because this critical data is accessible even without Internet on the app. Pretty simple and efficient.
My family’s experience serves as a good example of why a platform like ePACT makes a lot of sense. Years ago, the school that my wife works at and that our daughter attended had a fire in which a building was quickly destroyed. It happened during the school day, and the staff did an amazing job evacuating all the students within 45 seconds of the discovery of the fire. Unfortunately, news outlets jumped on the story just as quickly as they heard about it through the emergency scanners. News helicopters flew over the scene, and the media outlets did an emergency interruption of their broadcasts to report on the fire. Many families learned about the event through the broadcasts. Panic ensued for two reasons: the media outlets did not mention that everyone was safe and communications systems at the school were destroyed so the only way to reach families was through the slow process of “phone trees.” While the outcome was good in that everyone was safe, the inability to quickly reach all emergency contacts left many frayed nerves. Had something like ePACT been around, the administration could have reached families instantly via text or e-mail to let them know all the children were safe and where they could pick them up. The ability to reach out in a crisis is one that is often overlooked when it comes to plans for better parent and family engagement. But it is so crucial and can be greatly improved through technology.
The reality is we live in an age in which we can contact people incredibly fast through mobile devices. The ability to reach a parent, guardian or emergency contact quickly is a fantastic use of the technological devices we carry with us every day – our mobile devices. I am glad to see that people have come up with ways to do this well.
ePACT is the single emergency record and support network for families, and the emergency preparedness and response standard for organizations. By leveraging the power of online networking, ePACT brings organizations and families together to share critical information, plan collectively and communicate before, during and after any emergency. Sign up today to better connect and protect your family and organization through any crisis!
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