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Youth ALIVE! Uses PagerDuty for Life-Saving Response to Violence

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Size: 50-100

Industry: Nonprofit

Location: Oakland, CA

Customer Since: June 2021

Since 1991, Youth ALIVE! has had a singular mission: to break the cycle of violence and uplift a community of leaders through prevention, intervention, healing, and advocacy. That’s no small task, but the dedicated staff are committed to their community and have been up for the challenge. Its frontline staff all have strong ties to the communities they serve. Together with other counselors and specialists, they work tirelessly to help the violently wounded heal themselves and create a path to greater peace.

Youth ALIVE! runs numerous outreach and intervention programs operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week. These include “Caught in Crossfire,” which provides support for those seriously injured from street violence; Teens on Target, an on-campus initiative to train high school students and young adults from neighborhoods of high violence to be Peer Educators; and “Violence Interrupters,” where staff and Violence Interrupter Ambassadors engage young people on the streets to help defuse tensions, mediate conflicts and encourage alternatives to violence. They also run the “Khadafy Washington Project” (KWP), which supports families and friends of homicide victims with emergency financial assistance, relocation services, and urgent help applying for victim compensation and planning funerals.

Matter of Life and Death

Response and coordination in the past were a fully manual process—not ideal, especially when dealing with issues of life and death. Prior to implementing PagerDuty, Paris Davis, Intervention Director, was responsible for handling incoming referrals and intervention needs for these programs.

“Due to our contracts, when referrals come in, they need to be addressed within a very specific timeframe,” Davis said. “First it was just me, and then I partnered with another person and tried various manual systems, experimenting with different shifts and such, but obviously it wasn’t best practice.”

“For example, our Violence Interrupters team would use a burner (mobile) phone and just pass it around to whoever was on duty,” Davis added. “So, someone could be on duty, and then get a page for a region of Oakland that they weren’t in anymore.”

The long-term stress of being responsible for managing all of the incoming cases was taking its toll on the staff. Youth ALIVE! desperately needed a better solution. When Davis and Development Manager Lauren Greenberg found PagerDuty, they knew that this could be the partner they were looking for.

Value is Clear

With PagerDuty, Youth ALIVE! can orchestrate 24/7 real-time response across all of its core programs, eliminating anxiety for the staff and creating efficiencies in their response to calls. “When an email comes in after-hours stating that a homicide has taken place and here’s the next of kin, PagerDuty will let the healing director or coordinator know without any delay,” Davis said. “These are obviously important messages that require immediate attention.”

Davis said the same principle applies for the Violence Interrupters. “Anytime an incident happens—a shooting, stabbing, anything—we get a courtesy notification. Then among our three teams across the city, the appropriate person on shift is notified via PagerDuty so they can get to the scene right away. I’m no longer the sole gatekeeper—the information now flows to those who need it most.”

Greenberg said, “The ability to escalate issues to different people is key. When somebody is on the scene of a shooting and maybe they’re not equipped to handle it, or they need more support, they are able to use PagerDuty to re-assign the situation and reach out to somebody who can help prevent more violence.”

The value of PagerDuty Incident Response was immediately clear to the team. “Everything we do is important and affects real people,” Davis said. “PagerDuty made it easier for us to do our jobs and direct resources when and where they were most needed.”

“PagerDuty makes it easier for us to do our jobs and direct resources when and where they are most needed.”

-Paris Davis, Intervention Director, YouthAlive!

Time for Focusing on Mission-Critical Work

Thanks to PagerDuty, Youth ALIVE! and its outreach teams have been able to spend their time focusing on their mission-critical work. Lives depend on their team to be able to respond immediately.

PagerDuty has helped Youth ALIVE! achieve real-life results, including:

  • Increased team confidence and peace of mind – Teams know that the system will activate when it’s supposed to and no incidents will be missed.
  • Faster and better response – Violence Interrupters team can get the information they need to be first responders and do immediate safety assessments.
  • More support to save lives – Nearly 100 percent of violence victims in its programs have not been re-hospitalized. Juvenile recidivism has also been reduced by 90 percent.

“PagerDuty has allowed us to literally expand the amount of people whose lives we are able to save and who we are able to provide emergency support services to,” Greenberg said. “It really has increased our capacity in a tremendous way.”

The Future is Bright

The benefits they’ve already seen from PagerDuty have given the team plenty of ideas to expand their use. The team is eager to use PagerDuty for activities beyond outreach and intervention.

“I can imagine in the future that we can use this platform outside of intervention or healing,” Davis said. “I’d love to see us use it for receiving more positive tips and pre-emptive engagement opportunities, rather than just to respond to an incident that has already happened.”

Davis added that PagerDuty is “an impressive and powerful model” for organizations like Youth ALIVE! who need to spend the bulk of their time saving lives and achieving their mission. “Ultimately, we do this for the community,” he said. “We want to make sure that we can be there for them.”

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