BLOUNT COUNTY, Tenn. — Blount County launched a new high-tech security system that gives all county staff, including teachers, the power to call 911 without picking up a phone.
About 2,200 Blount County employees and staff at all middle and high schools will have access to this new alert system.
The county just finished installing SARA into all its school and government buildings. That's a product from Status Solutions that stands for "Situational Awareness Response Assistant."
This will tie together security cameras, emergency alerts and 911-center access to pinpoint what exact emergency is happening where, and which agency is the best to respond.
"The faster we know, the faster we can get help on the scene," said James Long, Director of Blount County Emergency Communications.
This mass communication and alert system between all county entities is something Blount County has been talking about doing for years.
"Unfortunately we see more and more of the active shooter events, so we really started looking at a product that would help us warn our employees and our citizens to be able to identify an active shooter," said Don Stallions, Director of General Services for Blount County. "Then not only that, but get law enforcement, get help on the way as soon as possible."
The new county-wide software gives employees the ability to put any county building or school on lockdown from their computer or phone.
Blount County teachers can do the same from a button they'll wear on a lanyard.
The devices, called pendants, are monitored by GPS, registered to individual teachers and staff members and sync with cameras in each school.
So if something bad happens, teachers simply push the button. This puts the school on lockdown, and alerts the 911 center.
Dispatch can see the school cameras closest to where the button was pushed to find out what emergency is happening.
"It cuts down on the 911 call, trying to find out the information from the person on the line," said Long. "Sometimes an emergency occurs where a person can't talk."
That's where the silence of pushing a button comes in handy.
Administration from all county middle and high schools are now trained on the software, which is now live in William Blount High School. It will roll out to all other schools and county offices in the next few weeks.
William Blount High School principal Rob Clark said this technology will empower his teachers.
"It's a way for our teachers and our staff to help protect our kids," he said. "Those outside forces are here and it's just an additional measure."
The system isn't just for dangerous situations like a possible active shooter.
Teachers can push the button if there's a fire, a medical emergency, a fight breaks out, or in any situation where first responders could help.