By Steve Barnes
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (Reuters) - Arkansas will put panic buttons in classrooms statewide this year, with officials saying on Tuesday the plan would be the most comprehensive public school emergency alert system in the nation.
The system would provide classroom teachers, principals and other school personnel with a console enabling them to alert first responders to crises including an active shooter, medical emergency, fire or on-site disruption.
The so-called panic button apparatus initially links to a community’s 911 system and can also guide designated emergency personnel to the precise location of the event.
“To our knowledge it is the first statewide deployment of our technology in the U.S.,” said Noah Reiter, director of industry solutions for Rave Mobile Safety, based in Framingham, Massachusetts, whose system will be used by the state.
The panic button technology will be in place at the beginning of classes later this month.
Arkansas has about 450,000 students in kindergarten through the 12th grade who attend classes in some 1,000 facilities.
“The more information first responders have when they arrive, the faster and more effective the response,” said A.J. Gary of Conway, Arkansas, an official of the state association of chiefs of police.
Local school districts are not obligated to employ the system.
"It is truly regrettable that we live in a time when schools and other locations have to worry about and prepare for various crisis situations," said state Representative Scott Baltz, a sponsor of the $950,000 appropriation for the program's first year.
(Editing by Jon Herskovitz and Lisa Lambert)