Affigent provides security solution for Alabama school
Emergency-alert capabilities will be brought to Saks High School in Calhoun County, Ala., this fall as part of a pilot program designed to help protect students, school personnel and first responders in the event of significant incidents, including those that require assistance from outside the school district.
Provided by Affigent, the solution used in the pilot program requires school personnel to wear a pendant with two buttons that can be pressed to initiate an emergency alert transmitted via the school’s 802.11 network. Although the solution has the potential to offer many other robust capabilities, school officials emphasized the need for simplicity in the initial rollout, according to Calhoun County Sheriff Larry Amerson, who has spearheaded the program.
“There are a number of different ways this can be programmed, but the thought process was—especially on the initial implementation—to have a large button and a small button,” Amerson said during an interview with Urgent Communications. “The large button means a large emergency, and you need help from outside the school. The small button means an incident that can be handled within the school, like two students fighting in the hallway and a teacher needs some help.”
When school personnel press a large button, alert notifications will be sent to the school office, to the school district administration and to the Calhoun County sheriff’s office, allowing the emergency-response process to begin as quickly as possible, Amerson said. The school can adjust which entities receive the alert, he said.
Vic Berger, principal technologist for Affigent, said that the high school’s existing 802.11 network made it easier to deploy the Affigent alerting system.
“The school already had a wireless network, and it already had a communications system that was in place, in use and was very effective” Berger said during an interview with Urgent Communications. “We were augmenting it with the capability to provide that panic alerting system, and the requirement was to make it very simple to use, so there was less chance of error or a teacher using it inappropriately.
“They wanted this to be as simple and as effective as possible, while tying into their existing systems”
Such alerting solutions for schools have become a priority, particularly in light of last year’s tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., when a gunman entered the school and fatally shot 20 children and 6 adults.
“In talking with the school security and superintendent, they said, ‘Our goal is to deal with a major event. There’s other ways to communicate about normal business,’” Amerson said. “Their goal was to—if there was an intruder on the campus, a serious injury or other event—get the notification to the right people as quickly as possible.”
The Calhoun County pilot program is part of the federal government’s “Now is the Time” plan, which established $150 million in grants to reduce gun violence and increase safety in schools across the nation, according to an Affigent press release.
“As far as we know, it’s the first school in the nation to do this particular technology,” Amerson said. “We wanted to find a system, and we found these partners willing to showcase this product.
“We’ve already applied for a grant to expand what we have, because the school administration really is pleased with this and it enhances the security of the school people.”