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Washington schools are first to test school lockdown app

The Thurston County SWAT team simulates a search at Rainier Middle School on Thursday. The school is one of three testing a lockdown app developed by a Tumwater company. (Photo by Michael Wagar, publisher Nisqually Valley News, used with permission)

One of the smallest school districts in Washington becomes the first in the nation to test a new app designed to notify a community immediately when a school lockdown is needed, and act to secure the building.

The Rainier School District in Thurston County has an elementary school, a middle school and one high school. Combined the three schools have fewer than 1,000 students and about 50 teachers.

The small district is the site of a big test of a computer application designed to provide an instant school lockdown and immediate notification of emergency dispatchers if someone shows up with a gun at school.

Nisqually Valley News Publisher Michael Wagar describes the app, which is something any teacher or staff member could activate.

It would remotely close and bar doors, make a lockdown announcement over the school intercom and provide an immediate live video feed from school security cameras to police dispatchers so they could watch what’s going on.

The system uses software called SchoolALERT, developed by the Helix Group, a Tumwater-based company. ALERT stands for Active Lockdown and Emergency Response Technology.

The technology will be installed on the teacher’s classroom computer, but he or she can also use it on their smartphones or tablet computers. The teacher only needs to hit one button on the app to activate the system.

If this test is successful, it will likely expand to other districts.

The state legislature passed a bill this year which mandates that school districts put procedures in place to protect kids from violence while on school property. The law, signed in May, requires schools to submit their safety plans by December of 2013.

The Nisqually Valley News publisher explains why the push for school safety has become his personal crusade


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