Ala. schools adopt 911 app to shorten response times

A staff member who is faced with an emergency can select from active shooter, fire, police, medical or 911, and a dispatcher will direct their call


By Sarah Pavlik-Hernandez
The News-Courier

ATHENS, Ala. — Limestone County and Athens City were two of the first school systems in the state to adopt the Rave Panic Button app last year. The app shaves minutes off of emergency response times, making county and city students safer than ever.

The Athens-Limestone County 911 center introduced the app to the school systems in 2016 and paid for the $10,395 piece of technology the first year. Schools superintendents Dr. Trey Holladay of Athens City and Dr. Tom Sisk of Limestone County were so impressed by its effectiveness that this year, they agreed to split the subscription cost three ways. Once divided, the two school systems and the 911 center paid $3,465 each.

With a single push of a button, a staff member who is faced with an emergency can select from one of five choices—active shooter, fire, police, medical or 911.
With a single push of a button, a staff member who is faced with an emergency can select from one of five choices—active shooter, fire, police, medical or 911. (Photo/Rave Panic Button)

With a single push of a button, a staff member who is faced with an emergency can select from one of five choices—active shooter, fire, police, medical or 911. Once activated, a 911 dispatcher is alerted and directs the call to the appropriate emergency personnel. This sets into motion a nearly immediate response in which the dispatcher has access to names and phone numbers of school staff and district officials, building floor plans and the exact location of the incident.

The dispatcher then sends out a detailed text message, explaining the situation and allowing for informed and fluid coordination between staff members, administrators and emergency responders.

According to the app's website, www.ravesafetymobilesafety.com, every 15 seconds an active shooter is left unchecked, a life is lost. For every minute a person who has stopped breathing doesn't receive CPR, their chance of survival drops 10 percent.

"Given the possibilities, it made a ton of sense for us to be part of the Rave Panic Button," Holladay said. "We have seen that it has been a phenomenal way to protect our kids."

Elkmont High School Principal Bill Tribble provided a real-world example of how the app significantly sped up response time when a football player separated his shoulder at practice a couple of weeks ago. The coach activated the medical button on his phone, and because the school had uploaded a map of their campus using the Smart 911 network, emergency medical technicians knew exactly where to find the injured player.

"Some of our county schools can be pretty big. They have multiple entrances, and when you incorporate sports fields, it used to take a while for our responders to know where to go," 911 Center Director Brandon Wallace said. "Now the app tells us exactly where we need to send someone."

Once the coach activated the app, the 911 dispatcher condensed the information he provided into a general synopsis and sent it back to Elkmont's school staff, administrators and Superintendent Sisk.

"I immediately knew what was going on and could call the coach and find out what he needed to be done," Trible said. "It gave everyone involved a better understanding of the emergency."

Taylor Shores, a 911 dispatcher at the Athens-Limestone center, said the app makes disseminating information easier and more efficient.

"Before we had the panic button, I would have to make several different calls notifying school security and the principal as to what was going on," Shores said. "The app allows me to notify the right people within seconds. I type the message and it goes to everybody and anybody in the school, and it is done."

Wallace doesn't keep specific numbers as to how many times the app is activated each month, but based on the calls that come through the center, he is confident that the app is making a difference in the schools.

"Less than a week after we launched the app last year, we had a situation at Elkmont where we had to MedFlight a 10-year-old girl who fell and hit her head after having a seizure," Trible said. "The app literally saved us minutes."

Sisk readily agreed to sharing the cost of the app because it is "innovative and gives teachers another tool at their disposal."

"I have seen it work, we have had to use it and it has increased reaction time significantly," he added.

Copyright 2017 The News-Courier

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