The Florida Department of Education (FLDOE) is enhancing the well-being of its more than 2.5 million public and charter school students with an advanced set of capabilities that will allow school safety and security officials to prepare for natural disasters, monitor security threats and manage incidents in partnership with local first responders.
The new capabilities are being added to the department’s Florida Safe Schools Assessment Tool (FSSAT), which for the past three years has provided the state with a secure web-based means of conducting mandatory online safety assessments across its 67 school districts.
Haystax Technology configured the FSSAT platform in close collaboration with FLDOE. The system, based on the company’s Haystax Analytics Platform™, was launched in response to a 2013 budget requirement from the Florida Legislature to “help school officials identify threats, vulnerabilities and appropriate safety controls for the schools that they supervise.”
The FSSAT system deployed in 2014 not only met all of these criteria but went further by additionally providing a means of managing detailed information about, and conducting safety assessments for, each of the state’s 6,000-plus school campuses. And by providing precise geo-location and asset data, FLDOE and the districts also have been able to visualize their schools on a digital map, providing a more intuitive way to prepare for and respond to fast-moving natural hazards, and to manage emerging threats.
An expanded set of web-based and mobile capabilities within FSSAT will be launched in the spring of 2018. These features will enable Florida school security directors to coordinate closely with their law enforcement and emergency management partners to:
- Manage preparedness and response to hurricanes, wildfires and other natural hazards;
- Maintain continuous safety awareness at each school — from the school’s availability as a designated storm shelter, to special events that may impact the safety of its students and staff to its potential exposure to nearby hazards;
- Instantaneously submit mobile damage assessments after hurricanes and other emergencies, directly from the impacted areas;
- Manage mobile incident reports submitted from campus security personnel and other users in the field;
- Produce a wide variety of aggregated reports that school leadership can use to understand emerging security-related patterns and trends; and
- Monitor threats to schools that are posted on digital media platforms.
Soon after a pilot project to test out the new FSSAT capabilities was launched in the Hillsborough County Public Schools (HCPS) district, Hurricane Irma hit Florida’s Gulf Coast. Just in the first 18 hours of the storm — the biggest Atlantic hurricane to make landfall in the continental US since Katrina in 2005 — HCPS sheltered 31,000 residents at 61 of its school facilities. John Newman, Chief of Security and Emergency Management at HCPS, said the expanded system provided real-time alerts and readily accessible planning and response data that previously had been sitting in binders. HCPS also relied on the FSSAT Map app for visualizing the locations and sheltering availabilities of school facilities, plus weather patterns, evacuation routes, real-time alerts and much more. “We look at FSSAT as a force multiplier,” Chief Newman said.
Because FSSAT is deployed via a secure online portal in the cloud, it is the ideal information-sharing environment for stakeholders at geographically dispersed agencies who need to maintain a common operating picture of their local environment, as well as for statewide monitoring and reporting. All FSSAT functions, including safety assessments, incident reporting, map visualizations and asset management, can also be accessed via mobile devices, ensuring complete domain awareness for all security and safety personnel regardless of whether they are in a command center or out in the field.
“We are excited and honored that the Florida Department of Education is expanding its use of the Haystax Analytics Platform for FSSAT,” said Haystax Technology CEO Bryan Ware. “Haystax is designed to provide complete domain awareness at the school, school district or state level, enabling each level to maintain a deeper real-time understanding of threats and risks in its area of responsibility. This enables all school stakeholders to better anticipate adverse natural or man-made events and respond quickly to emerging situations, ultimately keeping our children safer.”