Preparedness

Idaho School District Teachers Get Radios for Safety Communications

In addition to the two-way radios, the Minidoka County, Idaho, School District also has deployed a response triage bag with some unique items to help stop the bleed in each of the district’s classrooms during an emergency.

by Jim McKay / November 16, 2018

The Minidoka County School District of about 4,300 students spans nine schools across several miles in a rural area in Rupert, Idaho. The district was worried that safety might depend largely on which of the nine buildings you were in. 

That concern gave rise to the decision to equip all Minidoka teachers with two-way radios and furnish classrooms with a “response backpack” in case of emergency. The radios sit on each teacher’s desk turned on and ready for use. The radios are also programmed to contact police and fire directly to cut down response times. 

“We’ve been working really hard to develop some consistency across our district,” said Michele Widmier, district improvement director. “Our building safety coordinators recognized last year that depending on which of the nine buildings you stepped into would determine what would be available for emergencies, and there just wasn’t any consistency.”

That was about the time that a gunman killed 17 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., and the district decided to start with improved communications but also have a triage bag in classrooms just in case. 

“We just really wanted to be able to increase our communications,” Widmier said. “Our state safety department is going to donate a repeater for those two-way radios, so in the next couple of months, not only will we have internal communications, but we’ll have communication between every school facility.”

The triage bags contain a first aid kid and materials used to stop bleeding, such as tampons and sanitary pads, and duct tape, rubber gloves, toilet paper and plastic bags that can be placed in a trash can to make a toilet.

A PowerPoint was issued to each teacher and drills are conducted at least monthly that include using the radios. Radios are also used daily. For instance, a child recently got tangled up in a tether ball tether and a teacher was able to immediately radio for help. She said the radios must be used for emergency response. 

“They have to carry the radios wherever they go,” Widmier said. “They are used while people are on duty in the classroom and left on at all times. So in the classroom, if you see someone walking by who looks suspicious, you report that.”

Widmier said that, so far, the students appreciate the added layer of safety and the district is considering adding another layer in an alerting app called CrisisGo.

“It enables you to GPS-locate. For example, if there is a shooting in a building and students run outside, you can push the app to the students and they can respond, and it will locate on a map where the students are, and they can respond and communicate.”

CrisisGo also has a roster and reunification component, syncs with the school district information system and allows personnel to know who is authorized to pick up students and which students have been picked up. 

The district also recently deployed a Raptor visitor management system in each of the buildings.