Every Oconee County School System employee–from the first-in-the-morning bus driver to the school superintendent–is now wearing an electronic alert system badge that can signal a school safety threat with three small taps of a button.
With the taps, the employee sends a signal to the school office and to the Oconee County Sheriff’s Office telling exactly who pushed the button and where that person is located.
“The tremendous benefit of this is that every employee is empowered to alert law enforcement,” according to Anisa Sullivan Jimenez, director of Communications for Oconee County Schools. “And they are empowered to alert them immediately.
“Response time is everything in a crisis, and this helps to shorten that response time,” Jimenez said on Friday when school officials demonstrated the system at Oconee County Middle School.
The alert system is operational at all 11 of the system’s schools, and the demonstration on Friday coincided with a drill at Oconee County Middle School–the first such drill at the 11 schools as the school year gets underway.
Centegix Crisis Alert System
Oconee County Schools spent $330,000 in allotted state funds on the security package by Centegix Crisis Alert System of Atlanta.
|LeDuff With Oconee Middle School Map|
Each of the county’s roughly 1,000 employees has been given the badge, which she or he must wear. It is accompanied by a security ID, which must be used for access to school system buildings.
When an employee pushes the button on the badge, the location of the employee shows up on maps at the school office, at the Sheriff’s Office, and on mobile devices of school and Sheriff’s Office employees.
“The quicker we can arrive on scene,” Capt. James Hale said at the demonstration on Friday, “the quicker we can make bad things stop happening, and the better off we’re going to be in the long run.”
“We like this system a lot,” Hale said.
Jimenez sent out an invitation on Aug. 14 to representatives of The Oconee Enterprise and the Athens Banner-Herald stating that “Oconee County Middle School is holding a lockdown drill to test its new Crisis Alert System and this drill is open to local media.”
|Map Showing Where Teacher Signaled In Drill|
She invited me as well.
Michael Prochaska, editor of the Enterprise, and Lee Shearer, a reporter at the Banner-Herald, attended.
Also in attendance were Daniel Dooley, chairman, and Rob Kent, vice president of Marketing, at Centegix.
In addition to Jimenez, Superintendent Jason Branch, Dallas LeDuff, director of Student Services, and Oconee County Middle School Principal Keith Carter, represented the school system at the demonstration.
Hale represented the Sheriff’s Office.
LeDuff explained how the system worked in real time as students at Oconee County Middle School, 1101 Mars Hill Road in Butler’s Crossing, went into a lockdown after a teacher activated the system via her badge.
Shearer’s report on the session was in Saturday’s issue of the Banner-Herald.
Hale said that the county is divided into four zones, with six or seven deputies working those zones during the usual shift.
|Mobile Device Showing Location|
“There is a deputy within minutes of the school at any given time,” Hale said.
“I’m excited about this system because of the fact that it gives us security in the schools, but it also gives us a sense of understanding that I’m not having to go look for things,” Hale said.
“I can go to a location and find the situation instead of having to get so much information,” Hale said. “Deputies need short and concise information in split seconds.”
Jefferson City Schools in Jackson County is using the system, according to Dooley. Douglas County Schools west of Atlanta also has adopted the system.
|Badge With Button At Top|
At present, the system is being used only for the most extreme circumstances such as an active shooter that would lead to a lockdown.
In the future, it can be modified to allow for a lockout, a shelter in place, or evacuate, according to Hale.
Principal Carter said the system had not changed the procedures for lockdowns.
“This empowers all staff to be able to initiate a lockdown,” he said.
“We talked about no role is more important than another in Oconee County Schools, whether you are the bus driver or the cafeteria worker, the custodian, teacher, the administrator,” Branch said.
“And we think this goes to show our family that we believe that,” Branch added. “That everyone is empowered to activate in a crisis if they deem appropriate. We trust our staff to do that.”
Branch said teachers are not armed at any of the Oconee County Schools and are not allowed to be armed.
The video below is a slightly shortened version of the session on Friday.
I edited out some dead time and one place where my cell phone went off and I put my hand over the camera to turn off the phone. The total amount of video I eliminated was right at 3 minutes.
I also inserted text identifying the speakers in the video.
NOTE: Jimenez sent me an email message early today (8/19) saying that, although I was told during the session to push the button on the badge three times until it vibrated, at 19:45 in the video, school employees have been trained to push it multiple times until the badge vibrates. I missed Jimenez's message until this evening. I am sorry for the delay in adding this update.