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Red Clay School District pioneers school safety app

Sophia Schmidt, Delaware Public Media
New Castle County Division of Emergency Communication demonstrates how the Rave Panic Button app works in a school setting

The Red Clay Consolidated School District is the first district in New Castle County to deploy an emergency communications app in all of its buildings.

Administrators in the district’s 27 school buildings are now armed with the Rave Panic Button app, which lets them alert 911 dispatchers to situations such as an active shooter, a fire or a medical emergency.

“We had a test run yesterday at Stanton Middle. Worked perfectly,” said Red Clay superintendent Merv Dougherty.

When the panic button is activated, dispatchers learn whether the situation is an active shooter, a fire or a medical emergency, and where exactly in the building it’s happening. The system also gives dispatchers access to the building floor plans and security cameras.

New Castle County Emergency Communications Chief Jeffrey Miller says connecting schools with 911 Communications is important in an era where school shootings seem to be happening more frequently.

“In what’s going on in the world today, and we see it on the TV unfortunately almost once a week right now, we can arm all of our teaches and our staff in every public building,” he said. “We can arm them with technology.”

Credit Sophia Schmidt, Delaware Public Media
Chief Jeff Miller demonstrates the dispatcher's view of the floor plan of a school that uses the Rave Panic Button app

Miller says the Division of Emergency Communications is working with other schools in the county to put the system in place, but that Red Clay was a pioneer in getting it up and running throughout the district.

“It’s a daunting task at first. It takes a little bit of work getting the pre-plans and the building drawings, and making us aware of all the exits and entrances and where secure parts of the facility are located,” he said.

He adds that having high-tech communications is important because in an emergency, every minute counts.

The county first started using the app two years ago. It’s now in place in  nearly 150 facilities in the county.

Sophia Schmidt is a Delaware native. She comes to Delaware Public Media from NPR’s Weekend Edition in Washington, DC, where she produced arts, politics, science and culture interviews. She previously wrote about education and environment for The Berkshire Eagle in Pittsfield, MA. She graduated from Williams College, where she studied environmental policy and biology, and covered environmental events and local renewable energy for the college paper.