Schools Test Ac­tive Shooter Alert

Washington County Enterprise-Leader - - FRONT PAGE - By Lynn Kut­ter

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

the school.

“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.

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