School staff now have access to law enforcement in the palm of their hands, thanks to a pair of school safety apps.

HENRY COUNTY, Ind. — While the new school year brings hopes and challenges, it also brings new technology for Henry County teachers.

School staff now have access to law enforcement in the palm of their hands, thanks to a pair of school safety apps.

South Henry School Corporation is home to approximately 750 students all under one roof.

“We’re a small, rural community,” said Supervisor Jeremy Duncan. “Every day, we are entrusted with the most precious assets of our community, which are our children.”

A school resource officer protects and serves K-12 classrooms inside, but leaders in Henry County are taking more steps to prepare for a worst-case scenario.

“It’s always our goal to make sure our students are safe,” Duncan said.

Using an app on their phones, teachers can communicate with a first responder in seconds.

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Duncan says for teachers using the School Guard app, it’s as simple as one, two, three.

“There’s a big button here that says, ‘report an armed intruder and call 911,'” Duncan said. “When you click on it, you’ll see there’s a multi-step process here. It’ll ask you if you’re sure, and then of course, you’ll click yes and swipe. This is a three-step process essentially”.

This alert then immediately contacts all on- and off-duty law enforcement within 25 miles, shortening response times.

“This app essentially allows us to do that,” Duncan said. “This basically puts a panic button in the pocket of our teachers and our staff members. Especially for a school that’s in a rural area, this is a big deal. Seconds mean the possibility of a lifetime.”

Deputy Derek Bertrand, who grew up in Henry County and has been in local law enforcement for 10 years, helped bring this technology to schools.

“I thought that’s something I really hear in Henry County, and so we really looked to get it here,” Bertrand said.

Bertrand said response time is the biggest benefit with the School Guard app.

“He sends out an announcement to everyone in the school to go into lockdown,” Bertrand said, “and then simultaneously calls 911 and sends every on-duty and off-duty officer within a 25-mile radius to respond to the school. .”

Bertrand says Hero 911, which is the receiving app for law enforcement, gives officers several options when responding to an alarm. This includes whether an officer will respond in uniform or plain clothes.

“It will then give you a GPS location area, what officers are coming, who hit the ‘armed intruder’ and things like that,” Bertrand said.

Patrolman Chase Koger, of the New Castle Police Department, knows all too well how important response time can be.

One of the New Castle schools had a false alarm on the first day of school this year.

“It worked flawlessly with communication from the dispatch to the officers,” Koger said. “We had our first officer there within seconds and multiple officers inside the school within a minute.”

Koger, who grew up in New Castle and has worked for the police department for nine years, said this kind of progress could save lives across the county.

“The way we can break down a call to dispatch just simplifies everything and gets troops into buildings faster,” Koger said.

“It gives us the information quickly,” Bertrand said. “We can start that way, and then the dispatcher can start decoding through it while we’re on our way.”

The school app also has options for everyday use, such as allowing teachers to call for help if there is a fight or medical emergency.

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There is a “primary push”, which allows school leaders to send direct messages to the whole school, such as during severe weather.

For Bertrand, whose children attend the school and whose wife teaches there, this system means a little more.

“Anything I can do, I really want to,” Bertrand said. “We can never do too much to make sure our children are safe.”

Organizers say there is a third app, called Guard 911, used in county buildings to protect county employees and guests. It works in the same way as the School Guard app.

“It’s one of those things where I’d rather have it and not need it than need it and not have it,” Bertrand said.

Bertrand said the system comes at a cost, but Henry County commissioners have picked up the tab for the entire first year. He said schools will be responsible for monthly fees after that.

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