After Gun Incident, Georgia School Adds Tech Safety System

Dalton high school is spending $325,000 on a wireless alert system that relies on wearable badges that faculty and staff can use to alert a designated response team if an emergency has occurred.

by Chris Whitfield, The Daily Citizen / June 25, 2019

(TNS) — Ever since a shot rang out on a February morning in 2018 at Dalton High School, school system officials have been evaluating and upgrading their security protocols.

From the Dalton Board of Education funding four new school resource officers to the installation of “intruder locks” on all classroom doors, administrators and school board members have stressed security and safety since a Dalton High teacher barricaded himself in his room and shot a bullet through a window.

The newest tool teachers and administrators have is a crisis management system. Earlier this month, the Dalton Public Schools Board of Education approved a $325,000 purchase to install the CrisisAlert system from Centegix, an Atlanta-based company specializing in safety and security technology for schools.

At the heart of the system are badges that staff and administration at the school wear that are linked by wireless communication beacons. The badges, which match the size of the plastic identification badges all school employees wear, can relay alerts from any employee to a designated response team at the school.

Pressing a button on the badge three times signals an alert — an injury, a medical emergency, etc. — and seven presses of the button in rapid succession can place the entire school under lockdown for more serious situations.

“It puts a tool in our hands so we can all be watchful for whatever comes our way,” Roan School Principal Cindy Parrott said. “It provides the teachers that if they see a threat in any part of the school, they have a tool right there in their hands to alert everyone. We can respond, and it isn’t just about an intruder. If a teacher presses this button three times, we know they need assistance. Once that button is activated, it sends alerts and we can track exactly where someone is and can get help to them.”

Before the school board approved the contract, the system got a free preview when Centegix partnered with Roan Elementary as a test campus for the latest version of its CrisisAlert system. The installation in the system’s eight other campuses along with monitoring at the central office and technology campus is underway. The installation approval comes with a yearly monitoring and upgrade contract of $15,000 per year.

“The board has been really good about saying, 'You tell us how much this is going to cost and we will figure out if we can do it or not,'” said system Director of Technology Stuart Davis. “I grew up here. Roan was my first school. I still remember my first classroom here. You want to make sure those kids are safe and you have a real investment to make sure everyone knows that security is a top priority.”

Officials with Centegix began installing the system at Roan in October 2018, using the school as a test site. The system is currently being used in Douglas County and Henry County schools and is making bids to other systems in the state. Davis said the company — founded by Daniel Dooley, the son of former University of Georgia College Football Hall of Fame coach Vince Dooley — had never installed the system in a two-story school, and the school system agreed to allow Centegix to use Roan.

“It was brand new technology and something we were really interested in,” Davis said. “But we weren’t really sure if we wanted to move very quickly on it because it was so new and they hadn’t put it in many places yet. They installed it and we worked through the testing and some of the bugs, and it was ready by April. Overall, it is working very well.

“Being able to have this product and have it here for the end of the school year and see it in action, we were able to focus on our entire safety and security and be able to move forward this summer,” he said.

For Parrott, she had ample time to see the value of the system. At the end of the school year, Roan School was placed on a soft lockdown after the Dalton Police Department alerted administrators about activity in the area near the school.

"I would rather be prepared than anything else," Parrott said. "I have been here 26 years at this one school, and these families mean so much to us. We are starting to see what we call 'grandstudents' (children there whose parents attended Roan School) now. We’ve made these long-lasting relationships and it is important to me that they realize that Dalton Public Schools is putting safety first. If you are prepared, you have a chance at saving lives.”

Superintendent Tim Scott said has also been impressed with the system.

"Safety is first and foremost in all of our minds," Superintendent Tim Scott said. "This is a wonderful tool that with a press of a button can lockdown a school, but it also handles the day-to-day things that we can alert people to and respond to in a much faster way. It is a fantastic system."

©2019 The Daily Citizen (Dalton, Ga.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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