Panic Buttons for K–12 Elementary Schools

Older-generation readers may recall panic buttons for K–12 elementary schools as being wall-mounted devices frequently activated by students trying to avoid gym class. Fortunately, most wall-mounted panic buttons for K–12 elementary schools were phased out at the turn of the century as cellphones became more affordable and a more manageable way of contacting 9-1-1 in an emergency.

Although cellphones lessened the disruption of false alarms, they shared the inefficiencies of wall-mounted panic buttons for K–12 elementary schools inasmuch as they alerted 9-1-1 to an emergency, but 9-1-1 call dispatchers still had to find out what type of emergency service was required. If you were calling from a cellphone, the call dispatcher also needed to know the location of the emergency and - in the days before E911 - who was making the call.

The process was time consuming and - due to the stress of being in a life-threatening situation - 9-1-1 callers could be become panicked and omit critical details such as the building in which an active shooter was present, in which a student had suffered a cardiac arrest, or in which a class of students was trapped by a fire. The time taken to clearly communicate the necessary information may have only taken minutes, but it was time that delayed the arrival of first responders and could cost lives.

How App-Based Panic Buttons for K–12 Elementary Schools Differ

App-based panic buttons for K–12 elementary schools eliminate the minutes taken to communicate with 9-1-1 call dispatchers by providing authorized users with a choice of emergency services to request directly from their smartphones. Once the appropriate panic button has been activated, 9-1-1 call dispatchers know which emergency service to dispatch, where to dispatch it, and who was responsible for the panic button's activation.

Simultaneously, every other authorized user on the school's panic button network receives an alert advising them of the type of emergency in order that they can initiate evacuation or lockdown procedures; or, in the event of a medical emergency, ensure a clear route for EMS personnel. Depending on how the panic button software for elementary K–12 schools has been configured, school district administrators and incident mangers are also simultaneously advised of the emergency.


A further difference between app-based panic buttons for K–12 elementary schools and cellphone calls is that, when the panic button is activated, 9-1-1 call dispatchers have immediate access to the school's safety profile. 

Safety profiles are uploaded as part of the software configuration process and can include details such as:

  • School Type (i.e. Elementary/Middle/High).

  • Address of School and Best Access Points.

  • School District (including contact numbers).

  • Average Number of Occupants (per building).

  • Gate, Door and Know Box Access Codes.

  • Campus Layout and Floor Plans (per building).

  • School Emergency Action Plan.

  • Utility Cutoff Points and AED Locations.

  • Contact Details for Key Personnel.

The panic button software for elementary K–12 schools can be integrated with video management systems in order to better prepare first responders for the incident they will encounter and help incident managers plan ahead for how they will resolve the situation. The integration of video management software also enhances situational awareness during an incident such as an active shooter.

Nassau County Panic Button Case Study


Further Benefits of Panic Button Software for Elementary K–12 Schools

As well as accelerating contact with 9-1-1 call dispatchers and the arrival of first responders, panic button software for elementary K–12 schools has a number of features that can contribute to a positive outcome of any emergency incident. Possibly the most important of these is the ability to communicate with school personnel while on the way to, and while attending, an emergency situation.

Communications can be conducted in real time via the app between 9-1-1 call dispatchers or incident managers and groups of school personnel (i.e. administrators, medical, and security personnel). These can be voice messages or, in the event of an active shooter, silent SMS and Instant Messages. Real-time communications give incident managers a better understanding of the incident, allowing them to better coordinate response efforts and provide accurate updates to school personnel as events unfold.

Accurate updates are important during an emergency incident such as an active shooter due to the rumors that frequently circulate via social media. It can be the case a student sees a false message on their Facebook page that an active shooter event is over, prompting them to emerge from their hiding place into danger. Accurate updates provided to parents about the real time situation can be forwarded by parents to their children's mobile phones in order to keep them reliably informed and safe.

Further benefits of panic button software for elementary K–12 schools include the ability to review the actions taken after an emergency incident has been resolved. This can help schools better prepare for future incidents, revise their Emergency Action Plans if required, and support future staffing and funding decisions. Typically, the implementation of panic button software for elementary K–12 schools contributes towards a better relationship between on-site security personnel and emergency planners.


Watch How Panic Button Works

Non-Emergency Use Cases for Panic Buttons for K–12 Elementary Schools

App-based panic buttons for K–12 elementary schools have a “Staff Assist” function that enables individual authorized users to contact other authorized users within the school's panic button network with a tap of their smartphone screen. This function can be useful in non-emergency events such as:

  • Non-Emergency Panic Button Use CasesWhen an administrator or other member of faculty staff is confronted by a parent dissatisfied with their child's treatment.
  • When a child has sustained a non-emergency injury and their teacher does not want to leave the class unattended.
  • When a playground supervisor needs assistance to stop a fight between students or to settle an upset child.
  • When a teacher has identified a fire and brought it under control, but needs assistance in managing the situation.
  • When any authorized user has observed a suspicious event and wants a second opinion before activating their panic button.

These types of events occur on a daily basis in many K–12 elementary schools and, in addition to being able to seek assistance quickly, using the app-based panic buttons for K–12 elementary schools familiarizes school personnel with sending and receiving school security messages via the app. This experience can save time - and potentially students' lives - when an emergency incident occurs, as the authorized user activating the panic button has used the app many times before.

Federal and State Funding for Panic Buttons for K12 Elementary Schools

In March 2018, Congress passed the STOP School Violence Act that reauthorized the federal grant program for school security originally in the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968. Among the measures of the STOP School Violence Act, $25 million per year (*) is allocated in grants to public schools for the purpose of “[the] acquisition and installation of technology for expedited notification of local law enforcement during an emergency”. (*) $33 million per year from 2019-2028.

Quick Read: How Education Leaders Can Fund School Safety Initiatives

The grants will be released by the Department of Justice to State or local law enforcement agencies, schools, school districts, nonprofit organizations, or Indian tribal organizations who can demonstrate the technology selected to provide panic button software for elementary K12 schools is effective using “evidence-based” methodologies, and who implement school security best practices to validate their technology and equipment requirements.

The federal funding for panic buttons for K12 elementary schools compliments what is already being offered by many states. Grants specifically for the purpose of school safety and security activities are available in twenty-four states, while funding not specifically for school safety and security purposes, but that can be used for these activities, is available in a further eight states. School districts unsure of whether their state provides grants for the installation of panic button software for elementary K12 schools should contact their Department of Education.

Rave Panic Button Solution for Elementary K–12 Schools: Case Studies

The Rave Panic Button solution for elementary K–12 schools is implemented in more than two thousand schools across the country - every day helping to protect students and school personal in both emergency and non-emergency scenarios. Our sample of case studies demonstrates the effectiveness of the Rave Panic Button solution for elementary K–12 schools in saving time and saving lives:

  • In March 2017, a fifteen-year-old student went into cardiac arrest during baseball practice. The boy's coach initiated the school's Emergency Action Plan by activating the Medical Assistance button on his Rave Panic Button app. Within minutes an EMS team was onsite to administer CPR and save the student's life. The student suffered no long-term injury. (Read More)
  • In October 2016, a ten-year old student suffered a head trauma after going into a seizure and banging her head when she fell. Her teacher activated the Rave Panic Button app, immediately connecting with 9-1-1 while simultaneously putting the school into soft lockdown to restrict movement while the student was being transported to hospital. (Read More)
  • In March 2016, a potential active shooter event was prevented when a student told a teacher he had heard another student bragging he had brought a gun to school. The teacher immediately initiated a lockdown by activating the Active Shooter button on his Rave Panic Button app. Officers arrived within two minutes to secure the student and the gun. (Read More)

If you feel students and staff at your school would benefit from implementing app-based panic buttons for K–12 elementary schools, you are invited to contact us and discuss your requirements with our team of technical experts. Our team will be happy to answer any questions you have about the Rave Panic Button solution for elementary K–12 schools, and will tailor a demonstration of the Rave Panic Button to match your school's needs. Contact us today to find out more.

Panic button school safety demo