- Associated Press - Sunday, September 20, 2015

JONESBORO, Ark. (AP) - It was a typical dog day in Northeast Arkansas; a peaceful day at the administration building of the Jonesboro Public Schools District.

Monroe Pointer, director of facilities with the district, pushed a button on his smartphone and incited reaction from a minimum of eight people.

JPS Superintendent Dr. Kim Wilbanks rushed into the office of Steven Whitehurst, director of safety and security for the district. Within seconds, more staff entered Whitehurst’s office while others checked on Pointer to assure he was safe and unharmed, The Jonesboro Sun (http://bit.ly/1LhzIC5 ) reported.

The test had been a success. Staff and administrators had been properly notified via text messages and responded as directed. The RAVE panic button mobile application mandated by Arkansas lawmakers for all school districts had achieved its goal for this exercise, described by Whitehurst to the JPS Board of Directors during its regular monthly meeting last Tuesday.

According to Sun archives, the mobile app is free to school personnel because of Act 950 of 2015, which required all public schools in Arkansas to implement a panic button alert system by Sept. 1.

It also requires each school district to create an online facility profile for each campus and the district central office. That profile includes annotated floor plans of each building, campus layouts and contacts list for each school.

The Jonesboro Public Schools District is among many in the state working to train and familiarize staff and administration with the new security measure. Whitehurst said the process is going as planned, with training sessions and demonstrations conducted throughout the district.

There are different layers of notifications within the RAVE app, varying from a minor injury requiring attention from a school nurse to a hostile situation. The key is how the app simultaneously sends automated notifications to members of the various groups for each category while also connecting the person initiating the appropriate measure with local emergency services if required.

“Almost instantly, the moment you hit the button the texts are sent,” Whitehurst said.

Security directors or school resource officers require staff members of each district to complete a form with their personal contact information. The groups of responders are then created for various levels of security based on location and ability to perform certain tasks, such as CPR.

The Nettleton Public Schools District was the first to be armed with the RAVE app, according to the RAVE Mobile Safety Web site. The company provided feedback from NPS Superintendent James Dunivan, given his district’s status as a pilot participant in the statewide implementation.

“The earlier you can notify authorities about problems, and the quicker they can respond, the better it is for everyone,” Dunivan is quoted as saying on the RAVE Web page. “The legislation initiated this and we got in there and found out what company was going to provide this service and they agreed to let us be one of the pilot schools.”

Dunivan described at the time of his review of the system the variables built into the app.

“We will have five different apps, which are different buttons on the smartphones that we can choose from,” Dunivan told the company. “One would be for a shooter, one would be for fire, one would be for police, one would be for medical. By punching any of those on the app, it will automatically help us notify the proper individuals through the Smart911 system to automatically come render aid.”

Bay Superintendent Chip Layne told The Sun last month he was excited about the added security measures provided by the state to local districts.

“I think it will be great,” Layne said. “There will be a little bit of a learning curve in remembering it because we are so hardwired to call 911.”

Dunivan described a sample scenario so others could learn more about the system through the RAVE Web site.

“Let’s say there is a medical need at the schools,” Dunivan is quoted as saying on the site. “Once that app is used, they can grab their cell phone and touch the medical app on the phone. At the same time that app is contacting emergency personnel and ambulance services, it also will contact those on campus who are trained to treat emergency, such as school nurses, those who are trained in CPR or how to work a defibrillator . depending on the circumstances.”

The RAVE security enhancement comes during a time when many schools throughout the state are experiencing technological advances in classrooms. Whitehurst said it only makes sense some of the technology available be used to provide better safety at the schools.

“Technology is much better, and we’re starting to utilize that technology,” he said.

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Information from: The Jonesboro Sun, http://www.jonesborosun.com

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