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County adding new emergency response capabilities

Published: Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017 10:26 a.m. CDT • Updated: Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017 11:13 a.m. CDT

The Jasper County Board of Supervisors is working to enhance emergency response by adding the Rave Panic Button software for county employees. The board approved the addition on Tuesday during its regular weekly meeting.

The software will be optional for those employed by the county and will replace an aged panic button system no longer available for updates. It is an application that can be installed on smart cellular phones and provide immediate communication in emergencies to 911 and local law enforcement.

“It is the simplest and it is web-based so it is not relying on anything here other than the phone,” Jasper County Information Systems Network Administrator Ryan Eaton said.

As a part of an app on the phone, within seconds of pressing the button communication is made of the emergency to all on-site personnel, staff and security. It also gives important information including contact information, floor plans and emergency response plans to first responders with just the touch of the button.

The app covers all emergencies including an active shooter, fire or a medical occurrence along with buttons for the police and 911. As a part of the technology, geo-fencing will be set up among several county buildings, including the courthouse, annex building, community center, law center, engineer’s building, attorney’s office and the armory, to map out the campus profiles in the system. By geo-fencing the buildings, the app identifies the layout of the area on a map to determine where the emergency is happening and bringing help to the exact location quicker.

The new system will replace a decades old panic button technology current housed in the dispatch office. Select offices throughout the county have an actual button within the office for employees to utilize should an emergency occur. The system is very slow and outdated, buildings and grounds director Adam Sparks said, and to implement a new on-site server the county would have to completely start over with costs starting at $11,000.

“It gets rid of some old, old technology in dispatch. It fails several times a week or gives false alarms,” Jasper County Sheriff John Halferty said.

The Rave system has a one time cost of $500 per building to install the geo-fencing and a $3,000 yearly fee, a special price down $2,000 from the typical $5,000 per year cost.

A concern over a public records search request should county employees add the app to their personal phones was voiced prior to the board’s approval. Jasper County Attorney Mike Jacobsen said, as he understands it, the panic software doesn’t put anything on the phone other than the app itself, and he doesn’t think it would trigger any records stored on the phone.

Eaton said he thought the system could be up and running within a few weeks after the geo-fencing is installed and employees are notified and trained on how to use the app.

Contact Jamee A. Pierson at 641-792-3121 ext. 6534 or jpierson@newtondailynews.com