Why Every School Should Have A Panic Button App System

Picture of Andrea Lebron By Andrea Lebron

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ravepanicbutton11111A school panic button app system is a communication system for schools designed to improve the outcome of an emergency by enabling a faster response and more effective school emergency communication between school faculty and staff, and 9-1-1 first responders.

In an emergency, time matters. The chances of person surviving a heart attack decreases by 7-10 percent for every minute CPR is not administered, fires can engulf whole buildings in less than five minutes, and the majority of active shooter events are over even quicker.

In most emergency scenarios, the amount of time it takes to report and respond to an emergency can mean the difference between life and death. For this reason, all schools should have an effective school emergency notification system designed to accelerate internal and emergency response.

Related Article: Panic Button System for Schools Saves Lives During Emergencies

What Makes a School Emergency Notification System Effective?

An effective school emergency notification system is one that can be quickly activated by authorized personnel from any location, and which simultaneously informs school faculty, staff and 9-1-1 call dispatchers of the location and the nature of the emergency without time-consuming telephone conversations or other processes delaying an emergency response.

Wall-mounted and desk-mounted physical panic buttons don't fulfill this criteria as they are not always accessible when an emergency occurs (for example, a medical emergency on a school playing field), nor do they inform all parties simultaneously about the nature of an emergency. 9-1-1 call dispatchers will still have to communicate with the school to determine what type of emergency response is required.

Bluetooth-enabled wearable panic buttons can also be ineffective as an emergency notification system for schools if an authorized user is out of range of the base console when an emergency occurs; while GPS-enabled wearables consume considerable battery power. There are also issues with authorized users forgetting to wear them or - in the case of GPS-enabled wearables - keeping them charged.

For these reasons, the most effective type of emergency notification system for schools is a panic button app system. With this system, apps are downloaded onto authorized users' mobile devices - which most people rarely forget to carry with them or keep charged - and connect each authorized user with the central emergency school alert system and 9-1-1 dispatch center.

When an emergency occurs, the app provides a choice of emergency options (medical, fire, active shooter, etc.) and a non-emergency option for staff assistance. The authorized user selects the appropriate option and taps the screen. The nature and location of the emergency is immediately and simultaneously sent to 9-1-1, and to faculty and staff to initiate lockdown or evacuation procedures.

Use Cases for a School Panic Button App System

MEDICAL: App-enabled panic button systems can be lifesaving during a critical medical emergency that requires immediate assistance such as a heart attack, lethal allergy, seizure or critical injury. By leveraging a school panic button app in such dire situations, a staff witness can simultaneously notify 9-1-1 first responders, as well as key administrators and onsite employees with medical experience, from their mobile device.

New call-to-actionOne example of this is out of Benton, AR where a student-athlete collapsed on the baseball field due to a heart attack. The head athletic trainer, TJ White, received a call reporting a student was down and barely breathing. Fortunately, the coach on the scene had activated the school panic button system, which alerted all medically trained onsite staff and 9-1-1 responders simultaneously. By the time White reached the field just moments after receiving the call, multiple coaches were already performing CPR on the student and first responders were arriving at the scene. Today, the student is a happy, healthy and normal teenager.

FIRE: From the time a fire is ignited, it takes just minutes for the thick black smoke to fill the air and the building to become completely engulfed in flames. Every second in a fire emergency is critical to the safety of everyone inside and in nearby buildings. For example, if a fire erupts in the student chemical lab. or in the cafeteria, the staff member who witnesses the incident can leverage a school panic button system to accelerate the evacuation process and reduce the time it takes for local firefighters to reach the scene.

CRITICAL REPORT: General 9-1-1 calls can be placed through a school panic button app system in situations where a staff member needs to report a missing student, violence against teachers or other students, potential weapons on campus, or if a student brings to school illegal substances such as drugs or alcohol to school.  

In once case, an elementary student in Albuquerque, NM mistakenly brought pot-infused gummy bears to school and shared them with her classmates. Some of the students reportedly got sick while others showed signs of the “giggles”. With a panic button system at their disposal, school teachers who find themselves in this situation can act quickly by getting the students the medical attention needed, and reduce the likelihood of rumors through fast, accurate communication.

ACTIVE SHOOTER: Unfortunately, active shooter incidents are far too common in today’s world. During an active shooter emergency, only between 30-50% of the time do police officers arrive while the shooting is still active. By reducing the time it takes to report a violent attack to other onsite staff members and first responders, the attacker naturally has a smaller window to kill and inflict injury.

The sooner communication is established onsite the faster lockdown procedures can be moved into action. The use of a panic button system during an active shooting creates a critical communication bridge between the initial reporter, other onsite staff, and first responders. While on the phone with 9-1-1 through the panic button app, the reporter can provide situational awareness about the facility and nature of the shooting to police.

NON-EMERGENCY: Effective communication even during non-emergency situations is important. A non-emergency incident, such as a minor injury during recess that requires aid administered by the school nurse, does not require an immediate response from 9-1-1 and first responders.

>>Learn about Panic Buttons for K-12 Schools

The Rave Panic Button Emergency Notification System for Schools

The industry standard panic button app system being used in 2,000 K-12 schools across the U.S. is called Rave Panic Button. Every day the Rave Panic Button app system is used to protect students and staff members as well as improve the school administration’s strategy for managing emergency and non-emergency situations effectively. Below are features of a school panic button app system that further enhance the effectiveness of our emergency communication systems for schools:

HEIGHTENED SITUATIONAL AWARENESS:  Your school alert system should give you increased control, management, and visibility into any emergency that occurs in your school facility the moment it happens.

For instance, Rave Panic Button has an incident control and response dashboard that enables superintendents and administrators to log in remotely or within the school whenever they receive a Panic activation message. The key benefit to accessing this dashboard is the ability to monitor the emergency situation and help coordinate school resources, even from afar.

Another use case for the incident control and response dashboard is the ability for an authorized user to message out instructions to their staff, whether proactively or in response to an incident. For example, a school principal can log into the dashboard and send a message to all staff instructing them to hold their students back when the lunch bell rings due to a medical emergency ongoing in a hallway. Another possible scenario is if a School Resource Officer needs to send a mass notification instructing onsite staff to implement the lock-down procedure in the event of an intruder on campus (even if the panic button app system was never activated).

INSTANT NOTIFICATION: During a critical panic button activation (e.g. reports of an active shooter or fire) 9-1-1 responders and all on-site staff should be able to receive an instant notification with key details about the emergency type and location. And when social media instantly makes any school incident or emergency public knowledge, you need fast, accurate information to combat rumors and suppositions.

INTERNAL NON-EMERGENCY COMMUNICATION: The app-enabled mass notification system for schools should empower your staff members to manage non-emergency situations effectively by internally communicating an incident quickly and to only the necessary people.

ENHANCED COORDINATION AND RESPONSE: A great feature to look for in a school panic button app is its ability to integrate with an emergency response-enhancing system designed for your local 9-1-1 centers. Some tools provide seamless integration that allows critical facility data and information to be delivered to first responders during an emergency – such as detailed caller location, floor plans, emergency exit and entry points, and key emergency contacts.

LOCATION-BASED ALERTING: Through your school panic button app system, you should be able to identify and label the boundaries of all the school buildings and outdoor spaces to ensure accurate location data is delivered to 9-1-1 during an emergency.

Consider all of these options as you look to replace your existing school alert system or are researching a new app-based school panic button system to implement at your school. 

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Written by Andrea Lebron

Andrea is Rave's Digital Marketing Manager, a master brainstormer and avid coffee drinker. Andrea joined Rave in August 2017, after 10 years of proposal and corporate marketing at an environmental engineering firm. You'll find her working with her amazing team in writing and producing blogs like this one, improving your journey to and through our website, and serving you up the best email content. When she's not in front of a keyboard, she's chasing after her three daughters or indulging in her husband's latest recipe. Andrea has a Bachelor's degree in Marketing/Management from Northeastern University and an MBA from Curry College.

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