A teacher from New Zealand has created a world-first in apps.
Iain Rudkin, a 4th year technology teacher at St Paul’s Collegiate, has created the world’s first lockdown app, which means that a teacher can alert a senior manager of a potentially dangerous situation in the school within seconds of it occurring.
The idea for the app came out of a real-life lockdown-type scenario in his school, explains Rudkin.
“In 2014 we had a situation at the school where someone from outside the school came into a teacher’s room. Fortunately, that person walked into the room of a teacher who had previously worked as a police officer. While that teacher was able to diffuse the situation, we as a staff sat down to discuss what we could do should a similar situation happen again.”
Lockdowns can occur for a myriad of reasons, from a family member who is banned from the school coming on to the grounds, or a student having a psychotic episode to dangerous dogs roaming through the school.
In the event of a lockdown, procedures should be part of a school’s emergency procedure documents, reviewed by the Board of Trustees and made accessible to its community. And importantly, staff need to be familiar with what to do. In the incident Rudkin was involved in, the staff put forward the idea of a panic button.
“But that would have incurred quite a cost so that’s when I began to develop the idea of the app as now we all carry the ability to have a panic button with us, on our mobile phones.”
Rudkin designed the app to be as simple as possible to use.
The first staff member to identify a potential situation opens the Lockdown app on their mobile phone and holds the screen for three seconds. This instantly alerts the school’s senior managers. The senior manager can then put the school into lockdown by holding their screen for three seconds.
Once activated, the push notification alerts all the teachers, minimising the time it takes to secure the classrooms i.e. shut and lock doors and windows and make sure the students are safe by getting them out of line of sight.
The senior manager, who in pre-mobile days would have had to walk around the school to see doors were locked and potentially putting themselves at risk, can now view, via the app, relevant information and photos taken by the staff members’ phones by clicking the View Pictures tab.
The photos help provide authorities with information as the situation develops. So when the police arrive at the incident, they will know that which rooms are secure or not or if people missing. Wardens can then push message updates to all staff in real time; for example, “Please stay put. Help is on the way”.
Once it has been established that there is no longer a threat to the school, the warden can give the all-clear and take the school out of lockdown.
At this point, all staff simultaneously receive the “The school is now safe” screen.
As well as helping people to be physically safe, Rudkin says that research shows that lockdowns can be quite psychologically traumatising for those involved – even for those who may not have witnessed an incident.
“When people don’t know what’s happening, they can fear the worst. This way messages like ‘The police are on their way, please stay calm’ can help manage the impact of a lockdown on staff and students regardless of outcome.”
While there are apps that could be used to raise the alarm in the event of an intruder or someone violating a protection order, this is the first of its kind to focus on lockdowns in schools.
Rudkin found two IT developers already working in the education sector, Joshua Woodham and Steven Butler, and together they further developed the app. The first iteration came out about a year ago after it was trialled by several schools in the Hamilton area.
Their feedback led Rudkin to add the ability for students who are late for an appointment to be notified not to come on to school grounds, as well as the ability for a senior manager to contact the teacher who first raised the alarm to ascertain the risk.
While lockdowns, like fires in schools, are relatively rare occurrences, all schools are meant to have a lockdown plan and to practise drills at least twice a year.
New Zealand and Australian schools have quite a unique environment. Unlike Rudkin’s native Scotland, where the schools are quite compact with only two or three entry and exit points, many schools in the southern hemisphere are spread out over a wider area, with numerous places for people to come onto and leave the school. This technology streamlines the process, regardless of the layout, setup and population of the school.
The lockdown app is now in action in schools further afield in China and the US and in several schools in New Zealand and Australia. It is available in the android and
iPhone app stores under ‘Lockdown for Schools’. Schools are able to trial the app for free to get a feel for it, says Rudkin.
“Taking the idea of a panic button and making it into an app was a quantum leap. It’s been a fascinating process to be a part of.”
If your school would like to find out more about the app go to lockdownforschools.com.