Imbler teachers have a new security tool that enables them to send a detailed message about an on-campus emergency to fellow school district educators faster than one can say 9-1-1.

All Imbler School District staff received a smartphone-based emergency alert system as an app for their cellphones about two weeks ago. Anyone with the app who sees a fire, medical emergency or threatening intruder on Imbler’s campus can press one of three “panic” buttons on their phone and all teachers and staff on campus will immediately receive a message telling them about the situation. The message will indicate the nature of the emergency, where the emergency alert came from and whose phone it was sent from.

“If there is a shooter or intruder, this will help us get messages out that will protect our kids,” said Imbler School District Superintendent Angie Lakey-Campbell.

Once fully operational, the app will also instantly connect the person sending the alert to the emergency dispatch center in La Grande. Dispatchers there alert fire department and law enforcement service agencies in Union County of emergencies.

The Imbler School District’s new app was purchased by the school district for $3,000 from Rave Mobile Safety of Framingham, Massachusetts.

Lakey-Campbell said she became interested in acquiring the app after attending a school safety program in Boardman in April 2018 that included a mock active shooter drill put on by law enforcement officers and the InterMountain Education Service District. The program’s organizers emphasized how important it is for school district staff to be able to communicate when an intruder is on campus.

Lakey-Campbell said she believes the Imbler School District is the only one in Northeast Oregon to have an emergency alert app. The superintendent said the app is not complicated.

“It is user friendly,” she said.

The odds of someone accidentally sending out an alert when there is no emergency are reduced by a built-in safeguard. It asks users if they are sure they want to send a message before it is released, Lakey-Campbell said. Once someone hits “yes” the alert goes out instantly.

Lakey-Campbell said one of the most valuable features of the app is it indicates the location of the report of an intruder, fire or medical emergency. In the case of an intruder, indicating where the emergency is could be a particularly big help. She explained this will help teachers know how to best protect their students.

“They would know whether to evacuate or not,” Lakey-Campbell said, as an example.

Imbler High School Principal Mike Mills agrees, noting that before the app was in place there was a greater likelihood that there would be confusion in an emergency involving an intruder.

“Nobody would have known whether to run or hide because they would not know where the threat was,” he said.

The principal noted the app will make it easier to determine whether the school district should go into a lockdown or lockout mode in the event of an intruder. Schools go into lockdown when an intruder is in their building. Teachers gather students into classrooms and lock their doors when a lockdown is in effect.

See complete story in Monday's Observer