'Panic Button' on smartphone alerts first responders of emergency in seconds

'Panic Button' on smartphone alerts first responders of emergency in seconds

NEWBERRY COUNTY, SC (WIS) - The Newberry County School District has a new panic app activated for faculty and staff as a way to call for instant help.

The app is called the Rave Panic Button, and it serves as a way to reduce emergency personnel response time in Newberry County. All full-time employees - including administrators, teachers and even the catering staff have downloaded the app to their smartphones.

"Having the ability to get that notification we believe that we're saving anywhere from three to four minutes from that notification to the first responder," Chief Deputy Todd Johnson with the Newberry County Sheriffs office said.

In the event of an on-site crisis, an organization member can activate the Rave Panic Button app system by pushing one of the five emergency button types.

Upon activation, the user's phone will immediately dial 911 and at the same time, a preset notification is delivered to all necessary personnel including staff, and security.

"It's really amazing knowing that we'll have another way of communicating within our schools, and it gives another major safety barrier to all of our staff and administration," Joey Haney, Assistant Superintendent of operations for Newberry County School District, said.

The Panic Button application was installed on all school district administrator's phones last year and now is being installed on all teachers and other full-time staff member phones throughout the district. Administrators and public safety first responders are already praising the technology.

"This is an incredible resource for the schools, public safety, and the people of Newberry County," Sheriff Lee Foster said. "Many other schools, hospitals, and public safety agencies are starting to explore this technology but we stand proud to say that Newberry County was the first agency in South Carolina to implement what we are convinced will make our children safer and provide a much faster response to the schools and hospitals should an emergency occur."

Not only does the app reduce response time, it also tells first responders key information, such as where and when the alarm was set off, who set the alarm off, along with the layout of each school's floor plan.

The app works through a geofence to ping where your location is.

"There are 13 campuses spread out over 620 miles over the county," Johnson said.

So having this app will help pinpoint exactly where the emergency is.

"In the active shooter world they train us that for every 30 seconds a shooter has access to victims, someone dies," Johnson said. "In our world, we're saving 6 to 8 lives in our response time to the campuses as the notifications go out."

Another neat function of the app is that it can run off both WI-FI or cell phone signal. Each school in Newberry County has campus-wide WI-FI, so the app will work if they have a phone signal or not.

"Working in a school district myself but also having two kids that attend schools here in the school district, having this app, as a mom makes me feel more comfortable." Katie Nichols a Newberry County teacher said. "I know that my kids are safe. I know that Newberry county has taken every step that they need to take to make sure that not just my kids but all kids here in Newberry county are protected."

The app does cost money. It's about $10,000 a year and that is split between four agencies in the county - the sheriff's office, the school district, the Newberry County Public Safety and Newberry County Memorial Hospital. Each group pays about $2,500 a year.

Sheriff Foster said that Newberry County was the first county in the nation to form a partnership including the school district, hospital, and public safety officials.

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