In an emergency, Sussex Technical High School educators can now notify each other and 911 simultaneously. The Sussex Technical School District is one of the first districts to take advantage of a state-wide offering of an emergency-response mobile app.
Staff members who witness an emergency can open the Rave Panic Button app on their cell phones and press a button that corresponds to medical, fire, intruder or other emergency. That will immediately signal the Sussex County Emergency Operations Center. Because the entire campus is geocoded, first-responders will see digital maps of where the call is coming from.
“There is a staff alert function which … sends a message to all the phones which are plugged into this Panic Button, at work,” explained Dan Shortridge, Sussex Tech’s public information officer.
“The instant notification shortens the amount of time it takes to notify staff of an incident,” the district reported. “The app also allows staff to communicate internally, without calling 911 for situations that may not require a full emergency response.”
“You have to press and hold it, which is a good thing for folks like me, who have a tendency to pocket-dial,” Shortridge joked.
The app hasn’t been used in an actual emergency situation yet, but Shortridge said the on-site tests were “seamless,” and “we’re really looking to be rolling it out to all staff members in the fall, once teachers come back” in September.
The app is not mandatory for staff, but it’s an extra tool for those who do carry smartphones to school.
“At this point, it is a tool in the toolbox that we are using. There may be some circumstances where it’s more efficient to call 911 the old-fashioned way,” Shortridge said. “The app provides some additional functionality, such as the texting back and forth with the 911 center.”
In recent years, the Delaware Department of Safety & Homeland Security has focused on school safety, even requiring each school and district to write a comprehensive safety plan for all emergencies, from bee stings and allergic reactions to fires or intruders. This year, the E911 Board paid for all public and charter schools to obtain the Rave mobile app.
“In essence, it was a partnership between DSHS and the E911 board that brought RAVE 911 in, with monies being approved in late March 2019,” said Wendy Hudson, DSHS spokesperson.
For additional daily security, Sussex Tech uses several school climate officers. They’re not sworn police officers, “But several of them are retired law-enforcement,” whose job is “safety, security and school climate,” said Shortridge. “The folks that we have in those roles, just from personal experience — they have really solid relationships with our students, so it’s not the traditional security officer.”
Shortridge expressed the administration’s appreciation for the State’s investment in school safety.
“Keeping students and staff safe and secure is our top priority,” said Superintendent Stephen Guthrie. “We hope that emergencies never happen, but this app is another tool that our staff will be using to be prepared and work with responders.”
By Laura Walter