DES MOINES — A new “Safe and Sound Iowa” smart phone app is available to let Iowans anonymously report school-related safety concerns.
“This tool helps identify and provide intervention to students in crisis before they hurt themselves or others,” says special agent Don Schnitker, chief of the Governor’s School Safety Bureau. “Safe+Sound Iowa is designed to prevent violence, unlawful possession of weapons, self harm and other threatening behavior that affects Iowa youth.”
According to Schnitker, in 80% of school shootings, at least one other person noticed concerning activity or behavior that might lead to violence.
“That person with advance knowledge is most likely going to be another student or a teacher That is why having a tool like Safe+Sound Iowa available in every school is critical,” he said. “It gives every student and every teacher a voice in their safety.”
There’s also a Safe+Smart Iowa website and a toll-free 800-224-6018. Any report through the website, the phone or the app immediately goes to a law enforcement dispatcher. “The school safety report is immediately shared with local law enforcement and school administrators to further investigate the concern,” Schnitker said.
All of Iowa’s public and private schools have been notified that the app and website were launched this week and the School Safety Bureau is providing schools with educational materials about the Safe+Sound Iowa program.
Governor Reynolds hosted a news conference about school safety earlier this week. Reports of “swatting” incidents at several Iowa schools where a caller erroneously reported a shooting came in before the news conference began.
Several other school safety efforts have been launched recently. More than 1200 emergency radios have been ordered for all K-12 school buildings to establish a direct line of communication with law enforcement. In January, safety assessments were completed for every building in 455 public districts and private schools. Iowa Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management director John Benson said entry control, electronic security and communications were addressed. “One of the shortfalls we found was that direct link back to local law enforcement,” Benson said. “With the installation of those radios, we can check that one off because that vulnerability has been addressed.”
Schools may begin applying for $50,000 grants to make safety improvements.
The Iowa Department of Education has hired a company to make detailed maps of school property, to help first responders navigate in an emergency. The agency is currently surveying schools to see if they want the maps made, starting this spring.
The Iowa Department of Public Safety is also offering free active shooting training to law enforcement and first responders as well as houses of worship, businesses and schools. More than 1700 educators have recently undergone the training. Justin Stockdale, superintendent of the Dike-New Hartford Community School District, said Iowa State Patrol officers along with emergency management officials from Grundy and Black Hawk Counties recently trained 122 staff members in his district.
“While some may argue we will never be able to completely stop a catastrophic event that involves someone intending harm to our kids,” he said, “we can take measures to equip ourselves with the knowledge and skills to minimize the potential impact.”
The training includes how to apply tourniquets and pack wounds to stop massive bleeding.