Students in the Center for Advanced Technologies at Lakewood High School have created a web-based communications portal to help the school district keep track of shelter assignments and manage communications during emergencies.
The project will enable district staff to more efficiently prepare for emergency events and better serve the public.
Pinellas County Schools assigns administrators to shelter sites for hurricanes and other emergencies. But for years, it's been difficult to get shelters organized, sometimes resulting in hours of phone calls.
The Advanced Technologies students created a web portal that instantly assigns district workers to shelters and also accommodates for administrative changes as they occur, ensuring the list is accurate at all times.
"In the event of an emergency, we'll have enough staff, we'll be more organized, we'll be able to communicate if there's an emergency," said Katie Syron, a Lakewood senior and head web developer on the portal.
The students also created a more effective, cloud-based communications systems, allowing emergency shelters to instantly communicate with one another, and the county. This will be especially helpful if a shelter runs out of food or water, said Associate Superintendent of Operational Services Clint Herbic.
"We're not depending anymore on the old landlines, we aren't depending on hoping we'll be able to get through on cell phones," Herbic added.
“I am so proud of them," said Lou Zulli Jr., the IT teacher who facilitated the project. “I am proud of every one of my students and what they do.”
Pinellas County Emergency managers say this web portal could one day help save lives, something that is not lost on these teenage web designers.
"Maybe this could help so many people, like in Hurricane Katrina, where nobody knows what is going on," said Adis Husic, a Lakewood senior and web developer on the portal.
CAT students will unveiled their project at a special event on April 29 at Lakewood High. District leaders said the portal is ready to launch.
The district continues to partner with Pinellas County Emergency Management on the web portal and organizing emergency shelters.