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Schools Across the Midlands Implementing New Safety Features This Year

The new security measures include an alert app, shatterproof windows, keyless doors, and others

A Midlands school district is going high-tech to cut down on response time and save lives in case of an active shooter or other emergency.

In addition to existing safety procedures, teachers and administrators in Newberry will have a new tool right on their cellphone to keep children safe with just the touch of a button.

It’s a shrill alarm that’s not the class bell or the fire alarm.

It's a sound teachers at Newberry Elementary don't want to hear again after Wednesday's training.

The Rave Panic Button is an app that Newberry County Sheriff's Office chief deputy Todd Johnson said alerts first responders to an emergency almost instantly.

“Every deputy in Newberry County will be notified that there's an active shooter because all of our deputies are part of our response plan,” Johnson said.

Along with 911 dispatchers, Newberry Police, Newberry Fire, EMS, Newberry Hospital, school staff, and the school district office, more than 100 people would be told at the push of a button about an active shooter, which would cut down on response time.

“Active shooter training teaches us that for every 30 seconds a shooter has access to victims, somebody dies. So, this cuts off minutes upon minutes of response time and so we look at every minute as two lives,” Johnson explained.

The app also alerts any employees, teachers, or administrators whom are signed up to use the app at the particular school. Only authorized users within the school’s ‘geozone’ can activate an alert.

This year, every teacher in the district is being taught how to download and use the app, syncing it with cell phone numbers and emails.

Newberry County 2nd grade teacher, Betsy Petersen, says it’s a sign of the times.

“It's sad, but it's the reality of what we deal with every day, and I think that we have our heads out of the sand now and we're taking an active role in doing something that makes us safer,” Petersen said.

Petersen said it's a useful tool that helps achieve her number one goal of keeping her 14 students this year safe.

For Newberry Assistant School Superintendent Joey Haney, that's the point.

“Teachers and students have to feel safe, teachers cannot properly teach nor can students properly learn if they don't feel safe,” Haney said after Wednesday’s training session.

By touching a button in the app, it immediately sends the person’s location and dials 911.

It also sends a text, email, and app notification to every affected user and 1st responder. In the app, the caller can either speak with or text 911 operators based on the situation.

The app is a cooperation between Newberry County schools, the Sheriff’s Office, County Public Safety, and Newberry Hospital.

Thanks to a grant, the program cost each community partner $2,500 a year, but the Sheriff's Office said they would have paid full price if necessary when they were approached about using the app two years ago.

The Newberry County Sheriff's Office and school district say they're the first county in South Carolina to use this app.

Administrators started using it last year. This is the first full year all teachers at every school will have access.

Newberry isn’t the only school district to make changes for this school year.

Kershaw County said it was ‘hardening’ entrance to their schools, creating a three-tier system of entry using cameras, ID checks, and remotely locked doors requiring buzzed-in entry.

Lexington District 2 said it installed safety glass at Saluda River Academy and Riverbank Elementary, along with Fulmer once renovations are completed. Keyless doors requiring scan-cards have also been installed across the district.

Richland District 2 said it installed window film on entrance windows to avoid shattering and all doors, including individual classrooms, are required to be locked at all times, so when they need to be shut quickly, they’re already locked.