All Schools in Oklahoma Have Access to Emergency App

Lawmakers added $3 million to the education budget to fund implementation of the Rave Panic Button app, which allows users to connect with 911 and first responders while alerting school staff in the event of an emergency.

by Darla Slipke, The Oklahoman / September 26, 2019
More schools are plopping students in front of computer screens for ‘personalized learning.’ What are the drawbacks? Shutterstock/wavebreakmedi

(TNS) — Schools statewide now have access to a public safety app that's designed to improve communications and response in emergency situations, from active shooters to fires to medical emergencies.

Last legislative session, state lawmakers added $3 million to the common education budget to fund statewide implementation of the Rave Panic Button app. The app allows users to connect with 911 and first responders while simultaneously alerting school staff in the event of an emergency, officials said.

The initiative has the potential to provide "significantly enhanced" school and classroom safety for every public school in Oklahoma, state schools Superintendent Joy Hofmeister said during a news conference Wednesday at Norman North High School.

"This incredible mobile technology provides critical data to first responders so that at the simple press of a button on a smart phone, we have great accuracy in communication," she said.

The app allows teachers, staff and administrators to request immediate assistance in the event of a medical emergency, fire, active assailant or other crisis, said Noah Reiter, vice president of customer success for Rave Mobile Safety. When an authorized user activates the app, it prompts the person to call 911 so first responders can be dispatched while also sending immediate notification of the type and location of the emergency, Reiter said.

A companion application called the Rave 911 Suite is being made available to 911 centers across the state through the initiative. The technology gives public safety officials the ability to view key information about a school to help cut response times and improve situational awareness, Reiter said. It also allows first responders to send follow-up notifications to school staff during the incident.

Since the initiative was introduced two months ago, 143 of the state's 542 school districts have started to implement the program, Hofmeister said. Norman Public Schools implemented the program last school year.

Norman Interim Police Chief Kevin Foster said the app provides the dispatch center with a specific location within the school.

"Our first responders aren't just responding to a school and then trying to figure out where something is happening," Foster said. "They're going directly to the location to where the problem is."

The app can be used in a variety of situations, from large-scale emergencies to smaller threats like if a stray dog wandered onto a playground and students were about to be released outside, officials said.

Norman police officer Chris Antwine, a school resource officer, cited an example of how the app was used for a medical emergency this week. A nurse pushed the medical button, which notified a dispatcher, who contacted officers who were in the parking lot, he said.

"It helps us because we know exactly who called and what's going on," he said.

The $3 million cost includes some implementation services, which are a one-time expenditure, and software licensing fees, Reiter said. If the Legislature chose to continue to fund the app in future fiscal years, the cost would likely be less because the state wouldn't have the one-time fees, he said.

Hofmeister said the app will help foster a culture of safety in every school that uses it. Students cannot learn unless their basic needs, including a sense of safety, are met, she said.

"Not only does this tool provide swift information, but timely, accurate information where seconds can make the difference of life and death in a variety of different hazards," she said.

©2019 The Oklahoman. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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