Franklin County schools will be the first in the state to adopt an emergency response system that will enable staff to call for police with the push of a button.

The app, paid for the first year with a Department of Homeland Security grant, can be downloaded to the staff’s phones, computers and tablets and in an emergency can be used to contact a 911 dispatcher and immediately send police to the school.

“If the faculty or staff sees a threat either in the school or approaching the school … it sends an emergency message to dispatch and five closest first responders,” said Shane Cote, deputy chief of the Farmington Police Department, at a presentation Tuesday night to the Mt. Blue Regional School District board of directors.

Cote told directors that the initial installation is expected to be in May. He said some local officials came across information about the app at a vendor show and decided to pursue the federal grant for it.

Superintendent Tom Ward said the app allows for quick response to an emergency.

“The key now and in the future is if any intruder is coming into our schools, is how do we slow them down? Because we know that saves lives,” Ward said.

The program would be available to all Franklin County schools. Chief Deputy Steve Lowell of the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office said their department is working with the schools they patrol, which are also looking to adopt the tool.

The app will open up a chat window between the emergency dispatcher and the person who called for help. If other staff also see the emergency message, it doesn’t send new notices but instead adds them into the chat window, said Cote. It also allows for reverse notifications, such as if the dispatcher wants to send an alert out to the superintendent and other school officials so they know there has been an emergency report.

The app will be bought through Brandon-COPsync, a Massachusetts channel partner for Texas-based COPsync.

The Texas company said in a business statement earlier this month that its revenue in 2014 was $5.9 million, up 25 percent from 2013, and it had expanded into 40 subscribing schools in Louisiana. The company wrote that it is looking to add other states such as Texas, Massachusetts, Mississippi and New Hampshire to its existing network.

In New Hampshire, an initiative is underway to have all schools in the state adopt the technology. The spokesman for the New Hampshire Department of Safety did not return calls Wednesday seeking comment on the initiative in that state.

It’s not clear whether other Maine school districts will follow Franklin County schools’ lead.

Samantha Warren, spokeswoman for the Maine Department of Education, said Education Commissioner Tom Desjardin is scheduled to meet with a representative of COPsync to learn more about the service. She said she doesn’t have more information on the meeting.

The app costs $1,200 to $1,400 per campus to subscribe. Cote said the subscription cost of Mt. Blue’s six campuses for the first year will be paid for with money left over from a Homeland Security grant to the Maine Emergency Management Agency. After that, the annual cost for all the campuses — at least $7,200 — would have to be paid for by the district towns.

The school board unanimously approved a motion by director Claire Andrews to accept the program for the first year and then review it after the first year is over.

Cote said the app eventually could also allow the schools to call for help in a medical emergency.

Kaitlin Schroeder — 861-9252

[email protected]


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