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The below is a recent article on ThreatJournal.com regarding Safety Recommendations and Resources for Parents and Students. I’ve added additional information in parenthesis. Reprinted with permission.
SAFETY RECOMMENDATIONS AND RESOURCES FOR PARENTS AND STUDENTS
1. YOU AND YOUR CHILD SHOULD ALWAYS CARRY A CELL PHONE
You and your child should ALWAYS have a cell phone on your person, and in particular, a smart phone. If the school has restrictions, your child should have it anyways. Turned off, buried in their stuff, but they should have it. If the school discovers it and calls you, tell them they cannot deny you the ability to connect with or track your child. Make a stink and threaten litigation. They will back down.
(Editor’s note: I tell my kids to put their phone on Mute and Do Not disturb. This allows me to still pull up their location when I need it. Our high schoolers can have phones, but the elementary school does not allow them. We’ve told our youngest we’ll back them 100% if they get in trouble, so not to worry. Just keep the phone in DND mode when in school.)
For those families operating on strict budgets, inexpensive Android-based smartphones can be purchased online. Inexpensive pay as you go plans can be purchased at most drug and grocery stores. PRO TIP: Expensive phones and plans from major carriers are not necessary. Smaller, secondary carriers such as Boost, Cricket and MetroPCS are owned by, or lease network access from, the four major carriers. Shop carefully and make sure your child is aware of and abides by usage limits.
2. IF NETWORKS ARE JAMMED, USE TEXT (SMS) MSGS.
In Florida, cell service around the school was UNAVAILABLE for HOURS because so many people were trying to use their phones to make calls at the same time. The same situation happened on 9/11 in lower Manhattan, as well as in the location of most other significant terror attacks and disasters.
On the other hand, text (SMS) messages would go through (both ways) with little, if any, delay. The reasons are that text (SMS) messages require significantly less digital bandwidth, are routed completely different than voice calls, and a connection is terminated immediately after sending. So if signals are intermittent or a network jammed, a text (SMS) message has a much greater chance of being sent and received. Make sure your child understands this concept.
(Editor’s note: It’s been my repeated experience, as well, that text/sms messages will get through, even when the networks are extremely congested. If you have an iPhone, you need to make sure you go into Settings > Messages and turn on the “Send as SMS” option. This will ensure your messages get sent as an SMS when Apple’s iMessage server is unreachable.)
It may even be useful to set up pre-written emergency messages they can send in an instant or while on the run.
3. INSTALL THE FREE GLYMPSE APP ON YOUR FAMILY SMARTPHONES
Both you and your child should install the GLYMPSE application on your smart phones. GLYMPSE is a fast, FREE, and simple way to share your location in real-time and operates on both iPhones and Android devices. Your child can activate it and SEND their GPS location to you, your spouse and other family members multiple times a second. The same is true in reverse. You can also REQUEST they send you a GLYMPSE if you are searching for them. Use it and you will know their location to within a meter of their true position.
Make sure your child understands this is NOT a secret tracking application. Users must proactively send a GLYMPSE message for tracking. Parents can not snoop without their knowing. There are other applications for that need….
Practice with GLYMPSE. Regularly send them an SMS message asking them to send you a GLYMPSE message. Send them a GLYMPSE message so they can track you. Get used to using the application.
(Editor’s note: if you have an iPhone, this feature is built in, assuming you have an updated version of iOS. There are two ways you can send your location in the Messages app. The first is to tap the information icon in the upper right (a circle around an ‘I’) and then tap “Send Mt Current Location.” The second way is to type “I’m at ” (including the space at the end) and a shortcut to send your current location will appear. This occurs even if you don’t have Predictive Text turned on.)
4. HAVE A BACKUP CHARGING BATTERY
Voice calls, SMS messages and GPS-based applications such as GLYMPSE can quickly drain a smartphone battery. Every family member should have a backup battery to re-charge their cell phone or that of their friends or the teacher.
An excellent choice is the pocket sized portable charger shown HERE.
With a capacity of 10,000mAh, this battery can recharge most current iPhones and Android devices 3-4 times with ease. One of the key advantages of this particular battery is the digital display, allowing you to determine the charge level with a simple glance. One of these or a similar device, along with a charging cable, should be in your child’s backpack, purse and your car glove box at all times.
5. SET UP PRE-ARRANGED RALLY POINTS
Have prearranged locations to meet your child. Take the time to visit them together and make sure they understand that these are the emergency rally points, particularly if communications fail. This could be a nearby store, parking lot, restaurant, or ideally a trusted adult friend or family member’s home.
6. CONSIDER A BULLETPROOF INSERT FOR YOUR CHILD’S BACKPACK
As unfortunate as it is, attacks in schools are occurring with increasing frequency. During the past three decades, ballistic-resistant soft body armor has saved the lives of more than 3,000 police officers. Similar protection is also available in the form of simple panels that can be inserted into your child’s school backpack.
The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) establishes and updates performance standards and ratings for such products.
Learn more about the the NIJ Ballistic Resistance Standard
Understanding NIJ Ballistic Armor Protection Levels (pdf, 1 page)
A variety of ballistic insert choices can be found HERE.
Beyond Amazon, simple Internet searches for the phrases ‘ bulletproof backpack insert ‘ and ‘ ballistic backpack insert ‘ will provide a variety of additional options.
7. TALK TO YOUR SCHOOL ADMINISTRATORS
Parents should go beyond reading the generic handouts provided by school systems and seek first person awareness of the steps taken by your child’s institution to ensure their safety. Become personally engaged, visit the school administrators, attend scheduled meetings on this subject and above all, ask questions until you are personally satisfied.
Example questions all parents should be asking:
1. Are school doors locked during the day?
2. Are entrances and exits actively monitored during the day?
3. Are classroom doors locked when courses are in session?
4. Are administrators / staff / teachers specifically trained in responding to active shooter situations or other violent incidents. If YES, what is that training? If NO, why not?
5. Are there full time security officers on campus? If YES, are they armed?
6. Are there regular visits by local police in order to ‘show the flag’ and to make their presence known?
Regardless of the institution, it is should never be assumed that the school is being thorough in the standards employed for your child’s protection. Active engagement and demands by parents is ultimately what moves the needle.
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