In an announcement Wednesday morning impacting nearly every school district in Oklahoma, State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister is encouraging schools to adopt a new school safety app to keep students safe during an emergency.
The app the Rave Panic Button is already in use in many schools across the state. In the metro, it's being used in Edmond, Norman and in the Tulsa area. It's also been endorsed by the Oklahoma Sheriff's association. Similar panic button apps are already in place in Arkansas and Washington DC in the wake of deadly school shootings like Parkland, FL last year.
"Not only does this tool provide swift information, but timely, accurate information where seconds can make the difference between life and death," said Hofmeister.
The application is meant to connect school faculty, staff, and students in the case of an emergency. Once a user enters a valid phone number associated with a school or institution, a simple home screen allows them to call 911 for specific incidents like fire or medical emergencies. The most prominently featured is the icon labeled “Active Shooter.”
“It automatically pops up in our dispatch center with a geolocation within that school,” Norman Police Chief Kevin Foster said. “So, our first responders aren’t just responding to the school and trying to figure out where something is happening. They are going directly to the location, to where the problem is.”
A user does have to hold the icon for several seconds before the app alerts first responders, a feature meant to prevent accidental calls to 911. There's also a feature that operates as an in-app chat of sorts, allowing messages about emergency situations to be sent between faculty and staff, without being spread across the school’s sound or alert systems.
“It's not all the kids. It's not on the pa system. It's not a general announcement that panics the school it's the adults who know how to make the decisions on what to do next," Wes Adams with Rave Mobile Safety said.
The state was just given about $3 million to have access to the app in all 537 districts, with an option to renew.
“Everything happens in seconds, so it’s really hard to say how much it has cut down. But it has significantly helped,” Norman Superintendent Nick Migliorion said.