Schools Test Active Shooter Alert
PRAIRIE GROVE — Local police can be notified instantly of an emergency at a Prairie Grove school through an app that is available to all school personnel.
Prairie Grove School District has had the RAVE Alert App since 2015 and has tested it several times during the summers.
Recently, however, the school tested it with staff, police officers and emergency responders to make sure it worked if a teacher or principal initiated the emergency message in a school building on a regular day of class.
Capt. Jeff O’Brien with Prairie Grove police said the national average to respond to active shooter situations and other school emergencies is five to eight minutes. The goal of the RAVE app, O’Brien said, is to decrease that average.
The app has five emergency buttons that a school staff member can push, with the largest one a red “active shooter” circle. The other choices on the app are fire, medical, police and 911 other.
The way the app works is if a staff member pushes the active shooter red button everyone in the school district who has downloaded the app on their phone will receive an instant text that an active shooter situation has been reported at a specific school. Prairie Grove police officers receive the same text.
The teacher or staff member who pushed the active shooter button then will receive a second button to push that will contact 911. While 911 dispatchers are getting information about a possible active shooter on campus, Prairie Grove police already are on their way to
“This speeds up the time of our response,” O’Brien said. “It radically speeds up our time. We’re alerted the second they push that button. Every officer is alerted.”
Shawn Witt, the district’s technology and security director, set up the first test at the high school building.
Assistant Principal Joey Sorters pushed the active shooter button and instantly cell phones in the room were dinging that a text message had been received. Sorters then was on the phone talking to 911 dispatchers. At the elementary school, counselor Jennifer Wyle stood in a classroom and pushed the active shooter button. At the middle school, Principal Shayne Taylor tested the app.
Witt also has set up the school district’s landline as part of the RAVE system in case a teacher or staff member does not have a cell phone readily available. When 911 is called from a landline, police will receive an instant text.
Witt said the goal of testing the app at all schools with police, Central EMS staff and school officials on site was to see if there were any gaps. For example, when the active shooter call was made through the landline at the high school, it came up that the emergency was at the elementary school’s address, the high school.
“It’s easy to overlook something like the physical address being wrong,” Witt said. “We’ll go back and fix that.”
The school has used the RAVE alert for medical emergencies but police found that it worked for an active shooter alert when a staff member accidentally pushed the red circle.
When the button was pushed, all Prairie Grove police officers received the alert and five officers were on campus within 30 seconds, O’Brien said.
“We considered that an excellent training scenario,” O’Brien said. “We were on campus before 911 was notified.”
To prevent accidental pushes in the future, the app now has a 1.5-second push to activate the alert.
Reba Holmes, interim superintendent of schools, said she supports any programs that help Prairie Grove schools get help as quickly as possible.
“Any safety feature we can have at our schools is important to us,” Holmes said. “The quicker, the better.”
The state of Arkansas requires all public schools and open enrollment charter schools to have the RAVE Alert App.
According to J.P. French, director of customer success for Rave Mobile Safety, 45,120 teachers and school staff in the state have downloaded the app to their phones. These staff members are located on 1,278 campuses and in 4,295 buildings statewide.
Jennifer Weyl, counselor at Prairie Grove Elementary School, has just pushed the “active shooter” button on her RAVE Alert App to notify police and school personnel about an active shooter situation on campus. School officials, along with police and other emergency responders, recently tested the app at all three school buildings in Prairie Grove.