Skyview High to test emergency alert badges

The new system will allow teachers and police to communicate during emergencies.

kterhune@idahostatesman.comMay 11, 2013 

This is the type of alarm badge the Nampa high school is testing as a pilot.

PROVIDED BY WILL BARBER

The badges can send messages including "medical," "needs assistance" and "lockdown" to school offices, police and other recipients. They also transmit the wearer's location.

Skyview High School is the first in the state to test the ID badge alert system. The school will conduct a lockdown drill Monday afternoon using the technology.

The badges are often used in mental hospitals and were developed after a doctor was killed at work, said Sgt. Tim Randall of the Nampa Police Department.

School Resource Officer Brad Ford and Skyview High School counselor Mandy Petty proposed the system after Nampa Chief of Police Craig Kingsbury challenged police employees to think outside of the box about new approaches to school safety.

Ford and Petty were brainstorming ideas when they realized that the system could be adapted for use in schools, Randall said.

But the pair hit a snag when it came to funding. Neither Skyview High nor Nampa police had room in their budgets for the system's $20,000 to $30,000 price tag.

An individual donor who heard about the idea offered to foot the bill. The system will go into full effect next school year, Randall said.

There is no way to know if the badges would prevent a large-scale shooting like the one at Sandy Hook or Columbine, he said. But the system would allow for faster response and more accurate information in emergency situations.

"It's somewhat of a fix for these problems," he said. "There is no perfect fix."

Randall said he does not believe that schools are fundamentally more dangerous now than in the past. Instead, he said, he thinks the dynamics of society have changed, and schools are dealing with different situations now than 20 years ago.

"Schools are very safe," he said. "A kid becoming a victim of violence at school is very rare."

Will Barber, Skyview High's lead building administrator, said the system is not a response to a specific problem with violence at his school.

"It's not something directly addressing anything," he said. "We wanted to come up with something to help our school and help other schools."

The alert system is still in its pilot phase: 100 IDs were passed out to teachers and staff last week, Barber said.

One of the biggest positives of the badges is the shortened response time in a serious situation, Barber said. Previously, teachers had to leave the classroom or call the school's office to get help in an emergency.

The lockdown function - a latch that the wearer must pull - instantly sends alerts to everyone in the building.

Katie Terhune: 208-377-6219

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