by: John Knicely Updated:OLYMPIA, Wash. —
In the wake of the Newtown, Connecticut, school shooting a Western Washington school district has teamed up with a software developer to address that specific threat.
As Rainier, Washington schools start back up this week all staff are armed with the School Alert app developed by Olympia-based Helix Group.
Each teacher and staff member can access the application via smartphones, tablets and desktop computers. As soon as a threat is spotted on campus, the staff can hit the “lockdown” button on the app. An announcement then immediately goes out over the intercom to lock down the school.
“This is about reducing that time from initial recognition of threat to the announcement going out,” said Superintendent Tim Garchow. “And if we can trim that time 30 to 60 seconds, it gives teachers an extra 60 seconds to turn off the lights, lock the doors and hide the children.”
Hitting the “lockdown” button also activates the electric locks on all outside entrance doors. An incident commander has access to all security cameras using the app. And that commander or police can communicate directly with individual teachers through the app. A first step would be asking staff to check in.
“Staff would select whether they were green for safe and quiet and hiding,” said Garchow. “Yellow is they can hear something down the hall. Red is the threat is right outside the door.”
Only the incident commander or police can access the information that comes in from each staff member.
“That prevents the bad guy from getting ahold of the teachers phone and find out where the good guys are hiding,” said Garchow.
The Rainier School District is beta testing the app, but Helix Group hopes to have it available to all schools by the mid-September. The app will cost roughly $3,000 per school.