Arkansas launching 'panic button' for schools

RAVE

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App allows school employees to alert authorities quickly in active shooter or other emergency situation

LITTLE ROCK — Arkansas is launching a "panic button" system that will allow teachers, administrators and other school employees to alert authorities quickly if there's a shooter or other emergency on campus.

Lawmakers on Tuesday announced that more than 1,000 schools will be equipped with the Rave Panic Button, a smartphone app that connects users quickly with 911 and allows them to select the type of emergency on campus. The app also simultaneously notifies on-campus personnel about the location and nature of the emergency.

The program is being launched through a $950,000 contract the company signed with the state Department of Emergency Management.

The 2015 School Safety Act (Act 950) requires that every public school in the state of Arkansas be equipped with Panic Button by Sept. 1, bringing better protection to the more than half-million students, faculty and administrators in the state. The bill was sponsored by state senators and representatives, and supported by multiple state agencies, including the Arkansas Department of Education, DEM, Association of Chiefs of Police and Association of Fire Chiefs.

"It is truly regrettable that we live in a time when schools and other locations have to worry about and prepare for various crisis situations, particularly active shooters, where the number of incidents have increased year over year," said Rep. Scott Baltz, D-Dist. 61, lead sponsor of Act 950. "This powerful solution, which we hope to never have to use for an active shooter, will allow our response teams to save precious minutes, which translates to lives. Rave Panic Button enables us to better protect our most precious assets – our students and teachers."

Research has shown active shooter situations are often over within minutes, so it is critical for authorities to be notified and dispatched quickly and for school employees to be able to take immediate action. Today's response plans require calling 911 as the critical first step, and should be done immediately. By providing teachers and administrators with the ability to receive rapid notifications of an incident and to contact and inform 911 directly of an active shooter or other emergency, like a life-threatening medical condition, outcomes are improved.

"We felt it imperative to put a solution like this in place to protect the students, teachers and administrators across the entire Arkansas public school system every day," said Johnny Key, commissioner of the Arkansas Department of Public Education. "Having the ability to instantaneously connect teachers and school administrators with 911 and other emergency personnel will give us, and Arkansas parents, a much greater sense of confidence as we begin a new school year."

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