Reality Check: Schools turn to technology to help keep students safe

A school in Guildford County is the first school in North Carolina to use an active shooter detection system to keep students safe. (Photo credit: WLOS staff)

A school in Guildford County is the first school in North Carolina to use an active shooter detection system to keep students safe.

After a year of school shootings dominating headlines, schools across the country have been actively working to improve safety, inclduing many schools throughout Western North Carolina.

"A school safety plan isn't just a plan you write one time and put it on the shelf and in 10 years you pull it out and say let's check our school safety plan. It is a daily up to date type of plan," Henderson County Schools Superintendent Bo Caldwell said.

To help in its efforts to keep students safe, the district has hired nine social workers and 14 new student resource officers.

"When parents drop their children off, yes, they want them to strive in the academics, they want their children to learn, to thrive, but they want their children to be safe," Caldwell said.

A big part of safety nowadays, is technology.

"Everyone of our faculty members and our staff has the Rave app," Caldwell said.

"If they press that panic button, it automatically connects that employee with the 9-1-1 center," Henderson County 9-1-1 director of communications Lisha Stanley said.

The Phoenix Academy in Guildord County is taking things a step further.

"We feel like technology needs to be working for us," Phoenix Academy Superintendent Kim Norcross said.

The Phoenix Academy, a charter school in High Point, has given its safety plan an upgrade.

"The landscape of schools is not what it was 20 years ago, and we need to adapt," Norcross said.

News 13 stopped by the Phoenix Academy to learn more about how it has adapted with the active shooter detection system.

"They go off whenever there is any kind of a gunshot," Norcross said.

Then it sends a message to all faculty and staff, letting them know exactly where the danger is.

"It's a flash bang technology, so it's two-fold," Phoenix Academy Board Chairman Paul Norcoss said. "There's two sets of sensors, one detects sound and the other detects the flash."

Only when the detector sees the flash and hears the gunshot simultaneously, will the system be triggered.

Paul Norcross said it cost just less than $200,000 to install the system in three campuses.

He also said they've been developing the software to have all the information be sent directly to 9-1-1 dispatchers.

"In these incidents, the first few seconds can make the difference between law enforcement getting there quickly and saving lives," Paul Norcross said.

With this new system

"It's not even a millisecond before it detects and sends the information,"High Point 9-1-1 dispatcher Brandon Mabe said.

The process is much faster than ever before.

"By the time you dial 9-1-1 and you pick up, it can be five, six, eight seconds," Mabe said.

Those seconds are too valuable to waste.

"With an active shooter, when you say seconds matter, seconds matter," said Maj. Frank Stout, with the Henderson County Sheriff's Office.

And while Henderson County already has specific goals in mind, this new security system being used out east has been stirred up interest.

"If there is anything we can do to enhance the safety and security of our children, absolutely we will look at it," Stout said.

News 13 also spoke with Buncombe County Schools officials, who said they will be hiring several new SRO's. They will also be assessing all of their campuses in 2019 and establishing new goals once that's complete.

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