GREENFIELD — In more than 60 percent of active shooter situations, the damage is done — people are hurt or killed — before police ever arrive, statistics show.
With the danger of that delay — often about 10 minutes according to FBI estimates — in mind, county officials have announced a new program that aims to cut down on response times if a mass shooting happens here, officials say.
County officials are launching the Rave Panic Button — a mobile app that allows users to quickly report an emergency situation and automatically circulates a warning to other users nearby — in every school building across Hancock County and county-owned buildings, including the courthouse and courthouse annex.
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By pushing a button, employees indicate the emergency — whether it’s a medical problem or active shooter — while being connected to 911. At the same time, an alert goes to everyone in the building on a pre-determined distribution list.
In schools, for example, that could be staff and administrators. In the courthouse, it could include bailiffs and other personnel.
Once activated, all the county’s law enforcement officers — even those who are off duty — also receive a text notification about the emergency, allowing them to respond quicker than ever, officials say.
John Jokantas, director of Hancock County 911, approached county officials weeks ago about purchasing the software for county government and school buildings.
This week, county officials approved a five-year roughly $58,000 contract with Massachusetts-based software company Rave Mobile Safety to launch the program in Hancock County as soon as possible.
The news comes about four weeks after a mass shooting at a Las Vegas music festival left at least 58 dead and hundreds injured, though local officials say plans were in the works before the Oct. 1 massacre.
Some school buildings and county offices are already equipped with panic buttons, but they’re typically set up at a desk or in an office, said Hancock County Sheriff’s chief deputy Maj. Brad Burkhart.
People aren’t always sitting at their desk to activate those buttons, but their cellphones are usually in hand, he said.
The contract approved Tuesday allows 1,650 approved users to download the application, which is used by businesses and schools across the country, including Indiana Wesleyan University.
When authorized users pull up the app on their smartphone, they have five emergency options to choose from: active shooter, fire, medical, police and other. There’s also the option to call for a staff assist, which doesn’t active a 911 call but tells other employees help is needed.
Once activated, the application sends an automated text message to law enforcement in the area and on-site personnel about the emergency situation unfolding, a feature officials say decreases response times in situations when every second counts.
For staff members, the text notification allows them to immediately take action — whether that’s locking down or rushing to the scene to administer medical attention.
As the emergency incident unfolds, the 911 center will be able to sent text updates to on-site personnel to keep them informed. The 911 center will also serve as a command center by providing instructions and key information to the first-responders on the scene. At the 911 center, dispatchers automatically receive information — the average number of occupants and the number of floors, for example — about the building the call is coming from.
Greenfield-Central assistant superintendent Christy Hilton said administrators are grateful Jokantas and his team included the schools in their plans.
Greenfield-Central installed panic buttons in every building a few years ago, but they’re located only in certain areas, she said. If an emergency is unfolding on the other side of the building, reaching that button might not be quick or easy, but using their cellphone will be, she said.
Jokantas said purchasing the panic button product is proactive. Every student, every teacher and every staff member in a county office represents one reason to purchase the application, he said.
“We live in a world right now where we unfortunately need this,” he said.
And the cost — $14,000 the first year and $11,000 every year after — is a small price for the county to pay if one life can be saved thanks to the application, Jokantas said.
“Every penny is worth it,” he said.