Getting the right information to the right people at the right time is paramount when it comes to navigating a school crisis. Santa Barbara Unified School District will soon begin training teams of staff and teachers to use CrisisGo, an innovative safety platform that will help make that possible with a few clicks on a smart device.

Through a partnership with the creators of CrisisGo, Santa Barbara Unified is taking the lead countywide in implementing 21st century crisis response measures that streamline communications and sharing of information between students, parents, school staff, and emergency responders such as police, fire and hospitals.

District officials have spent several months working with CrisisGo engineers to customize the app, which now includes local school site safety plans, site maps, contact details, and other information to help guide people through an emergency situation on or around campuses.

The app will be loaded onto all district-issued smart devices. Teachers, parents, students and others have the option of installing the app on their personal devices, too.

A team of trainers from the Missouri-based software company will partner with district staff to begin training school staff the week of Sept. 23.

Santa Barbara Unified Superintendent Cary Matsuoka said the speed of communication is measured in minutes and seconds in today’s world of mobile devices and social media.

“The CrisisGo platform will provide the tools for staff, students, parents, and first responders to execute our safety protocols and send out communication in rapid fashion,” she said.

Through CrisisGo, teachers, for example, will have the ability to trigger a lockout or lockdown through a “Fast alert” button that automatically notifies law enforcement and others on site in just seconds. Another feature lets school staff and emergency responders direct students to evacuation or safe zones through an interactive map.

Kelly Moore, Santa Barbara Unified’s safety coordinator, has led the implementation of CrisisGo locally, and is now helping to expand those efforts to schools countywide.

“The vision has always been to get all the schools in the county, and all law enforcement, fire and other emergency response agencies, on the same sheet of music so we all know how to respond and help one another in a large crisis,” he said. “CrisisGo takes us to that next step.

“The reality is that no single agency or group of people can handle a major crisis by themselves. If we have to spend time trying to figure out what the other agency is doing, those are seconds that we risk losing lives.”

Frann Wageneck, asssistant superintendent of Santa Barbara Unified Student Services, said that in matters of school crisis response, every second counts. CrisisGo will allow the district to accelerate safety communication and response in ways that have not previously been possible.

“This makes complete sense,” she said. “It’s a 21st century tool. We can not expect to just rely on fire alarms and PA systems for communicating during a crisis.”

Moore said that while the CrisisGo platform has been implemented in other districts across the country, the software app is new to California. Furthermore, Moore, who has a background in law enforcement and emergency management, has led the charge to adapt the application in new ways, by expanding collaboration with local emergency response agencies.

Following the training of school staff at the end of September, Moore said he hopes the app will be ready to be used in the upcoming Great Shakeout drill on Oct. 17.

The CrisisGo platform was approved by the school board this summer. The software costs $24,500 per year, and is covered by the district’s insurance.

The district will continue to communicate with staff and families as the training phase evolves. Contact Moore for further information on CrisisGo or the trainings,

— Camie Barnwell for Santa Barbara Unified School District.