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Henry County teachers now equipped with lifesaving technology

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

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

"We are a small, rural community," superintendent Jeremy Duncan said. "Every day, we are entrusted with our community's most precious assets, which is our children."

One 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 is 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.

RELATED: Greenfield schools renew agreement for panic button app

Credit: Deputy Derek Bertrand
Teachers can communicate with first responders in seconds with the School Guard app.

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

"There is a large button here that says, 'report armed intruder and call 911,'" Duncan said. "When you click on that, you'll see there is a multi-step process here. It's going to ask you if you're sure, and then of course, you would click yes and slide across. That is the three-step process essentially."

Then, that alert immediately contacts all on- and off-duty law enforcement within 25 miles, cutting down on response times.

Credit: WTHR

"This app essentially allows us to do that," Duncan said. "It essentially puts a panic button in the pocket of our teachers and our staff members. Especially for a school that's in a rural area, that's a huge deal. Seconds mean the possibility of 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 this is something I really hear in Henry County, and so we really pushed to get it here," Bertrand said.

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

"It sends out a notification to everyone in the school to lock down," Bertrand said, "and then, it simultaneously calls 911 and sends out to every on-duty and off-duty officer within a 25 miles radius to respond to the school."

Credit: Deputy Derek Bertrand
Hero 911 is an app that gives officers a few options when responding to an alert.

Bertrand says Hero 911, which is the receiving app for law enforcement, gives officers a few options when responding to the alert. That includes whether an officer will be responding in uniform or plain clothes.

"Then it is going to give you an area of GPS location, what officers are coming, who hit the 'armed intruder,' and anything like that," Bertrand said.

Credit: WTHR

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 the communication from dispatch to the officers," Koger said. "We had our first officer in 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 advancement could save lives across the county.

"The way we can break down a call to dispatch just simplifies everything and gets bodies into buildings quicker," Koger said.

"This gives us the information quickly," Bertrand said. "We can start that way, and then dispatcher can start deciphering through it while we are on our way."

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

RELATED: Schools buy panic buttons to alert law enforcement about shooter threats

There is a "principal push," which allows school leaders to send direct messages to the entire school, like during severe weather, for example.

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 that our kids are safe."

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

"It's one of those things that I would rather have it and not need it, than need it and not have it," Bertrand said.

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

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