Since weather and climate tend to be regional in nature, the specific weather challenges facing schools vary from place to place.
In New England and the Midwest, students, administrators, and parents are some of the keenest watchers of winter storms. In the Gulf Coast region, schools and districts are concerned with both major tropical storm events and the daily lightning that's part of life in the region. In the West, districts need to think more about the floods and wildfires that result from long-term drought.
Regardless of the specific regional challenges, school administrators and district risk management teams need to be able to make timely decisions to keep students, employees, and the community as safe as possible. Those decisions generally present as:
- Delayed starts, early releases, and school cancellations
- Scheduling, cancelling, and rescheduling outdoor events
- Sports games & practices
- P.E. classes
- Field trips
- Assemblies & ceremonies
- Accounting for variable conditions across a district
To boil it down to three questions: Is it safe to have school? Could any scheduled events become unsafe? Are we accounting for the full picture?
Meet the School District of Palm Beach County, Florida
The School District of Palm Beach County is roughly the size of the state of Rhode Island. With 180 schools spread out across the region, they needed a weather safety solution that could provide a hyperlocal, site-based approach.
Compliance with the 2020 Zachary Martin Act was also crucial to the district. The Act requires Florida schools to establish heat stress guidelines for student activities and monitor heat stress at the individual school level year-round.
Here's how district safety technician Fred Cahill explains the challenges they were facing:
"We needed a severe weather warning system that could pinpoint the weather exactly as it was happening on top of our individual facilities - versus the global approach - because we're such a diverse area and we're so geographically spread out. We have facilities near Lake Okeechobee in farming areas, and we have urban areas near Palm Beach."
A district-wide approach to weather safety & heat stress
Partnering with AEM's Earth Networks Brand, the School District of Palm Beach County's risk management team was able to create a private weather network that would help the district understand current and developing weather conditions at each individual school. The district was able to scale the weather network rapidly and at a taxpayer-friendly price point by leasing weather stations and sensors rather than purchasing them outright.
In addition to helping the district set up their weather network, Earth Networks also provided real-time lightning mapping and storm tracking that would help the risk management department manage and understand Florida's volatile weather better than ever.
In this way, the School District of Palm Beach County was able to modernize their overall approach to weather risk management and go from square one to total compliance with the Zachary Martin Act in less than two months.
Here's Elizabeth Henry, another safety technician with the district, explaining how the solution they've built with Earth Networks is delivering value for students, administrators, athletic directors, and even the district police:
We were able to add [weather alerts] to all our school, elementary through high schools. Elementary schools use it for PE, and they also use the weather alerts around dismissal times. At the high school, they use it for their sports and all their outdoor activities. Our police use it for their command center.
To get the full story on how the School District of Palm Beach County pulled off their transformation into a weather-readiness leader, be sure to download the case study:
Learn more about weather risk management for education
If you're a school- or district-level administrator or risk management professional looking to improve your approach to severe weather risk management, AEM is here to help. We specialize in scaling solutions to each school district's individual size, goals, and challenges and offer hardware leasing and software licensing plans that keep students safe with the best possible weather technology without breaking the bank.
To start a conversation about responding to severe weather risks in your district, contact us today!