School security is going high-tech in Arkansas.
State legislators and agency heads announced Tuesday that the state would contract with Rave Mobile Safety — a Massachusetts-based communication software company — in a $950,000 deal to develop a high-tech “button” that would contact authorities during a school emergency.
The contract comes as a result of the passage of the 2015 School Safety Act, which mandated that every school in Arkansas be equipped with a panic button system integrated into the Smart911 emergency call system. The system and the buttons are scheduled to be operational by Sept. 1.
“It’s such a pleasure when folks all over the state work together for the good of our children,” state Sen. Jane English, one of the co-sponsors of the bill, told Arkansas News.
The system will operate through a smartphone app and will let school district personnel in the state connect almost immediately with emergency personnel. It’s an effort to better protect the 475,000 students in Arkansas public schools, according to David Maxwell, the director of the state Department of Emergency Management.
The smartphone app component allows users to select the type of emergency situation occurring at a campus and send that information to other school personnel and emergency responders.
According to Maxwell, each 911 dispatch center across the state operates under local authority in their home counties. If any issues arise with cooperation, the emergency management director said his team would be able to address it.
“911 in Arkansas is completely decentralized, so it’s kind of a give and take,” Maxwell said. “We’ll be working with them. I’m on the 911 Blue Ribbon Task Force, and we’re looking at all of those kinds of issues.”
Arkansas will be the first state in the country to establish a statewide panic button initiative, according to the Arkansas News report.
In a statement posted on their Facebook page, the Arkansas Department of Information Systems lauded that accomplishment, citing the other instances where the state was first: It debuted the first iPhone app for American Recovery and Reinvestment Act projects and was the first state to release an Apple Watch app.
“Arkansas as first in the nation to launch an Apple Watch app,” the post said. “Yesterday, Arkansas achieved another first in the nation as the first state to implement a statewide ‘panic button.’”