Thanks to a federal grant, schools throughout Louisiana, including ones in Baton Rouge, plan to try out a mobile “panic alert” app that would alert school staff and first responders immediately in the case of an emergency.
The East Baton Rouge Parish School Board on Thursday discussed signing onto the program.
“As we all know in most emergencies, response time is the most critical thing there is and (this app) would really cut down on that,” said Ben Necaise, associate superintendent for the school system.
The app, called Rave Panic Button, enables school administrators, and if need be, teachers, to touch their phones to send out an alert. Those authorized have five buttons they can press to issue an alert: an active shooter, fire, medical, police or other 911-related emergency.
“Once they communicate there is an emergency, everybody on that campus is alerted via mobile phone or app,” Necaise said. “That would then allow information from either us or law enforcement to give us info on what’s going on.”
If the board says yes at its Nov. 21 meeting, the apps would be rolled out to all schools in the district starting Dec. 1. The tryout period would last through August. Teachers and school staff would also receive training.
In October 2018, State Police landed a $500,000, three-year federal school safety grant from the U.S. Department of Justice that calls for the state to supply schools in Louisiana with a mobile alert app. The state has settled on suburban Boston-based Rave Mobile Safety to provide the app.
Capt. Trevor Smith, commander of crisis response section for State Police, said his office looked at vendors across the country before settling on Rave due its long experience in the field and because it had previously rolled out its app across the state.
“It doesn’t bypass 911, it actually enhances 911, which is something we like,” Smith explained.
Necaise said the app has several features the school system doesn’t have now.
“It shows the exact spot in the building where that alert came from,” he said as an example.
Currently, if an emergency arises, the principal or that person’s designee handles calling the appropriate responder, or, if needed, making a 911 call, Necaise said. Also, any staff member can call 911 if immediate action is warranted. Then that staff member is supposed to alert the office of the 911 call, he said.
The alert accelerates that process and brings it to more people.
“Once the alert button is pressed and a 911 call is initiated, all staff, faculty and administrators are looped in via a text messaging system of the incident, location and next steps needed for the event,” Necaise said.
Currently, if a teacher calls 911, administrators don’t always know an emergency call has been made, Necaise said.
The proposed memorandum of understanding between Rave and the school system sets a price, if funding runs out, of a $105,300 initial expenditure to cover the entire school system. Smith, however, said he’s hopeful that either grants or legislative funding will pay for the panic alert app after the tryout period ends.