The Henry Co. teachers. are now equipped with life-saving technology

School staff now have access to local law enforcement at their fingertips, thanks to a pair of school safety apps.

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

School staff now have access to local law enforcement at their fingertips, thanks to a pair of school safety apps.

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

“We’re a small, rural community,” said Superintendent Jeremy Duncan. “Every day we are entrusted with our community’s most valuable assets, and that is our children.”

A school resource officer is protecting and serving K-12 classrooms inside, but Henry County leaders are taking more steps to prepare for the 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 first responders 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 that, you’ll see that there’s a multi-step process here. It will ask if you are sure and then of course you will click yes and swipe down. That’s the three-step process essentially.”

This signal is then immediately communicated to all law enforcement agencies on and off the job within 25 miles, reducing response times.

“This app essentially allows us to do that,” Duncan said. “This essentially puts a panic button in the pocket of our teachers and staff members. Especially for a school that is in a rural area, this is a huge deal. Seconds mean an opportunity for lives.”

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

“I thought that was something that I was really hearing in Henry County, and that’s why we really pushed to get it here,” Bertrand said.

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

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

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

“It will then give you information on the GPS location, which officers are coming, who hit the ‘armed offender,’ and everything like that,” Bertrand said.

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

A school in New Castle had a false alarm on the first day of school this year.

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

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

“The way we can split the dispatch call just simplifies everything and gets the bodies into the buildings faster,” Koger said.

“It gives us the information quickly,” Bertrand said. “We can start that way and then the dispatcher can start deciphering 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 ‘direct push’ which allows school leaders to send direct messages to the whole school, for example in case of bad weather.

For Bertrand, whose children attend the school and whose wife teaches there, this system means 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 the same way as the School Guard app.

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

Bertrand said the system does come at a cost, but the Henry County Commissioners footed the bill for the entire first year. He said schools would be responsible for monthly fees thereafter.

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