LITTLE ROCK — State legislators and agency heads announced Tuesday that Arkansas is to be the first state in the nation to provide schools with a high-tech tool designed to bring help faster should a crisis occur.
As part of the 2015 School Safety Act, the state is contracting with Rave Mobile Safety, a Framingham, Ma.-based communication software developer, to equip school districts with the ability to simultaneously contact appropriate emergency and school personnel in the event of an emergency.
Filed as House Bill 1653, and sponsored by Rep. Scott Baltz, D-Pocahontas, Sen. Jane English, R-North Little Rock, and Rep. Bruce Cozart, R-Hot Springs, and signed into law by Governor Asa Hutchinson as Act 950 of 2015, the legislation mandates that every school in Arkansas will have a panic-button system integrated into the Smart911 emergency call system, with the system to be operational by Sept. 1.
All three lawmakers praised efforts of state and school district officials, working in tandem with 911 officials to achieve the goals of the legislation.
“It’s such a pleasure when folks all over the state work together for the good of our children,” said English. Baltz called it “a wonderful effort for the safety of our children.”
David Maxwell, director of the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management, noted that the system, which will operate via a smartphone app, is intended to give designated school district personnel in the state’s more than 1,000 schools the ability to connect almost immediately with emergency personnel in an effort to add a measure of safety for the 475,000 Arkansas students who attend those schools.
Asked after the press conference if any issues of cooperation existed with any of the 911 dispatch centers, which are operated under local authority in their home counties, Maxwell said he is not aware of any but said he will address any issues should they arise.
“911 in Arkansas is completely decentralized so it’s kind of a give and take and we’ll be working with them. I’m on the 911 Blue Ribbon Task Force and we’re looking at all of those kinds of issues,” said Maxwell.
The “panic button” smartphone app interface allows users to select the type of emergency situation the campus is facing and to send that information to other school personnel as well emergency responders.
The program is being launched through a $950,000 contract between ADEM and RAVE Mobile Safety.