As school safety continues to be a growing challenge, Baldwin County Public Schools has implemented a state-of-the-art crisis alert system in schools districtwide. Teachers wear the crisis alert …
As school safety continues to be a growing challenge, Baldwin County Public Schools has implemented a state-of-the-art crisis alert system in schools districtwide.
Teachers wear the crisis alert system badge around their neck and at the push of a button can alert their school's crisis team (composed of administrators, nurses and student resource officers) in the case of an emergency.
"We had been discussing it for a while and thought it would be great to have a uniform method of communication across the board," said Marty McRae, assistant superintendent of safety, prevention and athletics. "We knew Mobile had it, and we knew it had been what we were looking for. We implemented a demo in Fairhope High School before we decided to put it at all schools during the 2022-23 school year."
McRae said the biggest factor when choosing and implementing the system is the quick response time the system allows for.
"Time is very, very important and how fast you can get things done," McRae said. "With this system, instead of relying on the intercom, it will take over the teacher's computers in case they are in a situation where they can't hear the intercom."
To better explain what the crisis alert system would look like, McRae use the example of a school lockdown.
"A lockdown is what most people think of. If a person in our building saw a threat, they could essentially put the whole building in a lockdown," McRae said. "Everyone understands what they need to do, and the local police department, 911 and other municipalities are given the same notice and can arrive in minutes."
However, McRae said that the system can also be used in less dire situations.
"The individual schools can use it within their own school, and the district won't be notified about every situation, but if it is something bigger it will notify all of the schools and the district level," McRae said.
Brian Pempel, a 12th-grade history teacher at Spanish Fort High School, said the new system makes it much easier to communicate with administration.
"The biggest benefit is being able to contact administration immediately. I don't have to go across the room to hit a button, and we don't always have our phones on us to call for help," Pempel said. "It makes the communication a lot quicker, and when you need help most it's much easier to get it."
Pempel said that while he has not had to use the crisis system yet, he has seen it been effective in several situations.
"I haven't had to use it yet at Spanish Fort, but I have seen it used in medical emergency situations. I would say that is one of the most often uses," Pempel said. "Anytime you need assistance quickly, and especially in a medical emergency, it is a huge weight off of your shoulders as a teacher to know that help is coming."
Pempel said that as a teacher, he has gone through safety training and been briefed on the situations in which the crisis alert would be necessary.
"If a student is disrupting class, that is a time you probably shouldn't use it, but if you have a student in crisis, that's when we would use the button," Pempel said.
McRae said the school system is in a five-year contract with CENTEGIX, the company that produces the alert system. He said the system is expected to cost approximately $1.8 million to be paid out per year in increments of $350,000.
"Our teachers told us best; it is like a security blanket. It is a feeling of safety knowing that there is someone always there monitoring," McRae said. "They are able to have that peace of mind, knowing 'I'm a click away from having the help I need in case of an emergency.'"