(TNS) -- ATHENS, Ala. — School teachers in Limestone County are using their smartphones to guard against active shooters and other school emergencies.
The program could become a model for statewide proliferation of the program that promises a faster and more precise response to active shooters, said R.V. White, CEO of the Athens-Limestone County Emergency Communications.
White and other officials announced on Oct. 20 that all Athens City Schools and all Limestone County Schools are now using the Rave Panic Button.
The smartphone app from Massachusetts-based Rave Mobile Safety allows teachers, administrators and other school staffers to call 911, alerting operators to key information such as the type of emergency with the single push of a button.
It uses the phone's GPS location to tell responders precisely where caller is on campus and send a facility profile with information such as emergency exits and where students gather in the event of a bomb threat.
"This rapid communication can be the difference between life and death," said White, adding that 35 percent of active shooter incidents last less than two minutes.
For now, it is only a pilot program that the emergency communications district is paying for at a reduced introductory rate. If school officials like it, they'll pick up the cost next year.
Athens City Schools Superintendent Trey Holladay said the cost is minimal compared to the benefit, estimating the expense at $1 to $1.50 per pupil.
"It not only tells responders where the school is. It tells them where on the campus the caller is," he said. "If you have a medical emergency, you can push the button and just stay with the child until help arrives."
The app features different buttons for different situations, such as medical emergency, active shooter, police or fire. Once the button is pushed, it sends an alert to key staff members, such as school resource officers, via their smartphones and lets them know who made the call.
White said the app is also available for private schools and businesses at varying costs depending on the number of downloads. He his hopeful the program will be picked up by other schools and government entities across the state
Thus far, the new system is getting positive reviews from school officials.
"Our students and teachers are our most precious assets and they deserve the best technology to protect them in our schools every day," said Limestone County Schools Superintendent Tom Sisk in a statement.