Why we started Sonarcloud

by Jesse Baptiste

Sonarcloud in action

I started Sonarcloud after witnessing a frightening experience at a school my children attended. During the afternoon pickup, one of the children was unaccounted for, and their parent was in a panic. The school administrators scrambled to locate the child and to explain what happened. After lots of questions and running back and forth, it was determined that the child had been picked up by a guardian who was not on the approved list. While this episode only lasted a few moments, and had a positive outcome, the feeling of fear and helplessness that this parent experienced, stuck with me for some time. I thought about my own children and what I could do to help keep them safer when at school, especially in emergency situations.

I spoke with the principal about their emergency communications, and he explained many of the challenges that they often encounter in crisis situations. The most basic yet significant challenge in these situations was that the Public Address (PA) phone is located in an office somewhere across the school, making it difficult to reach and make announcements quickly. I spoke with other administrators, staff, and other parents and we all realized this was a real concern. Since then, I’ve encountered other frustrations with everyday in-school communication (such as bells). The barrier for most schools is that they have existing equipment and would require a significant investment to upgrade. However, Sonarcloud uses their existing equipment saving the school money while increasing safety and communication.

Our mission at Sonarcloud is to help schools improve in-school communication, and to create safer learning environments for students and staff. In many of the schools that we encounter, their Public Announcement systems are not adequate to support their EOP (Emergency Operations Plan) and the guidelines laid out by the Homeland Security and FEMA, as stated in the REMS. It states:

School wide “reverse 911-style” text messages sent to predetermined group distribution lists can be very helpful in this regard. Posting this protocol near locations where an all-school announcement can be broadcast (e.g., by the microphone used for the public announcement system) may save lives by preventing students and staff from stepping into harm’s way.

With Sonarcloud this becomes possible through our mobile and desktop app that gives access to PA systems from anywhere. All-school announcements can be made from any location, and the text messages can be sent to predetermined groups simultaneously. In fact, we can send the audio or text transcription of the actual announcement to any number of recipients. With more than 175 languages spoken in the NYC public school system, announcements can also be translated to different languages and sent to groups in the school via text message.

Building strong partnerships with law enforcement officers, fire officials, and EMS technician includes ensuring they also know the location of available public address systems.

Sonarcloud has the ability to connect the school’s PA system to 911 services and to give them immediate access to your PA system when on site. This enables them to begin implementing their safety protocols before even entering the building.

Train staff to overcome denial and to respond immediately, including fulfilling their responsibilities for individuals in their charge. For example, train staff to recognize the sounds of danger, act, and forcefully communicate the danger and necessary action (e.g., “Gun! Get out!”) to those in their charge. In addition, those closest to the public address or other communications system, or otherwise able to alert others, should communicate the danger and necessary action. Repetition in training and preparedness shortens the time it takes to orient, observe, and act

With Sonarcloud we seek to train staff on making announcements easily. We encourage them to use Sonarcloud for regular announcements and bells everyday. This repetition helps to increase their familiarity with the system, which can help in a crisis situation. We also have the flexibility to create pre-recorded emergency protocols for various situations, which can further simplify the required responses in an emergency situation.

Within an ongoing and/or evolving emergency, where the immediate reunification of loved ones is not possible, providing family members with timely, accurate, and relevant information is paramount. Having family members wait for long periods of time for information about their loved ones not only adds to their stress and frustration but can also escalate the emotions of the entire group. When families are reunited, it is critical that there be child release processes in place to ensure that no child is released to an unauthorized person, even if that person is well-meaning.

We have also partnered with Clever to give us the ability to securely connect to almost any SIS to keep all student information in sync. In the case of an emergency, the information is up-to-date, and parents can be notified automatically.

These are just some of the benefits of Sonarcloud for your school. There are many more that we would love to share with you! Reach me at info@getsonarcloud.com. I look forward to hearing from you.