Legislators, superintendents: School Safety Act to save time and lives

Legislators, superintendents: School Safety Act to save time and lives

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - When it comes to resolving emergency situations at a school district, time is one of the most important factors.

Reducing response time from emergency responders is the idea behind the recently enacted 2015 School Safety Act in Arkansas.

"Now what you have is you have a teacher calling on the intercom, to the office and then the office calls 911," Scott Baltz told Region 8 News.

Baltz, an Arkansas State Representative from Pocahontas, said that will change at the beginning of the 2015 school year.

The process will be shortened significantly with the implementation of the "panic button" in Arkansas schools.

Baltz said it's something the legislature has looked for for two years now.

"About 90 days ago, I found this company and it's been a whirlwind ever since," Baltz said.

Baltz said the phone app will alert 911 immediately as it works hand in hand with the state's Smart911 program.

"We will be able to get the appropriate people there and that saves minutes, which saves lives," Baltz said.

Baltz explained that all schools will have to do is give Smart911 their floor plans.

That way, when the button is hit, Smart911 can pinpoint exactly where the problem is.

Baltz, former fire chief for the Pocahontas Fire Department, said for emergency responders, that's huge.

"Knowing where they need to go first, for resource officers, for the EMS, for fire or whatever it is," Baltz said.

The bill passed the house and senate unanimously and was signed by Governor Asa Hutchinson Thursday.

The bill has garnered a lot of support from school districts as well.

"Our state organization approved it, all the superintendents in the area have endorsed it, again, another tool to really help us in a crisis situation," Westside Schools Superintendent Bryan Duffie said.

Baltz explained that a "crisis" situation can include everything from active shooter on campus to students experiencing medical problems in the classroom or even while playing sports.

School administrators will approve who has access to the panic button app on their phone. Those users will be trained on the program before school starts.

The state is funding for the program for the first two years.

"It's $950,000 the first year which is two dollars a child," Baltz said. "It's $850,000 the year after that. It's pennies for what it will do."

Baltz said that Arkansas is the first state in the nation to implement this kind of program statewide. He said he hopes other states follow suit.

"Safety and time is what saves lives for our kids," Baltz said.

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