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Cell phone app helps American Falls school district with emergency response

Some changes are coming for the American Falls school district.

School emergencies could be helped thanks to a new app.

The app, called “DIR-S”, could be the difference for the district if an emergency were to happen. It’s the latest technology to try and keep kids safe at school.

“All the teachers have it on their phones and on their classroom computers and if there’s ever an emergency, they can trigger it,” explained Travis Hansen, principal of American Falls High School.

In an emergency, staff have four options for the type of alert: lockdown, evacuation, lockout or shelter in place. Hansen said each one has a description and step-by-step protocol for whoever sends the alert so they know what to do further in that given situation.

“They can set it off on their phone and it immediately goes to everyone else in the school on their phones and their computers, as well as all the local law enforcement officers,” described Hansen.

“Far more efficient than let’s say using your cell phone to try and call everybody, because you can only make one call at a time,” said Power County Sheriff Jim Jeffries. “With this app, you can reach multiple people.”

KIFI/KIDK spoke to Tresit Group, who makes the app, for more information on how it works.

Tresit said it’s secure and made for each group. Tresit said you have to log in with either a fingerprint or a username and password. That username and password are the same as the faculty use for the school district. That’s because Tresit said the app is connected to the school’s database, so it’s constantly updating with changes to the school, like staffing changes.

Based on the username and password, staff are authorized to use the app and are linked to the school district they are associated with. People from other DIR-S groups would not see alerts from the American Falls district and vice-versa.

The app also helps provide law enforcement with information they need to know about the situation when they arrive.

“Once an alert has been activated, teachers then pull up a map of the school and they can check in on the map,” Hansen said. “Mrs. so-and-so is safe, Mr. so-and-so is safe and then the police see that as well.”

Green rooms mean safe, so by seeing the map on the app, police can know where to go, what areas are in danger and what areas need securing once on scene.

The app is not just a mass alert app – it opens up two-way communication among everyone involved.

“There’s also like a chat room that teachers can talk back and forth through in the app, saying maybe, ‘I saw the guy, he’s wearing this, he’s headed down that hall.’ Then the police have access to that too so we inside the school can be giving details to police while they’re on their way.”

“I think it’s very exciting because it helps us with the challenges that we deal with in worst-case scenarios, like a shooting,” Jeffries explained. “We can do it quicker. The more communication you have, and the more efficient it is, then the better outcomes you’ll have.”

The app may still be new and everyone getting it used to it, but Hansen said he’s pleased with the technology.

“I like it,” he said. “We’ve drilled on it a couple times and we’ve still got a couple more to go but I like it and I think it’s going to work well. I hope we never have to use it, but if we do, I think it will be a benefit for us.”

The alerts go both ways. Law enforcement can send a “reverse alert” and issue a lockdown as well. Jeffries said this can be beneficial for them in cases where something is happening outside of school grounds, but could still be a safety concern, such as an escaped prisoner or a dangerous chase near a school. He said with this app, they can alert all the schools at once and place them on lockdown, if necessary, without having to take time to call each and every school to enforce it. He said this is much quicker and much safer for the students.

“Minutes count in an emergency so the faster we can respond, the better off we’ll be,” Jeffries said.

Jeffries said it’s very new for them so some of his officers are still training and learning the app. But he said very soon, all of his officers will have the app on their phones. He said dispatch will have the app available too.

American Falls PD is the same – they too will have the app. Jeffries said it’s important both agencies have it not only so that all are informed and can work together, but also because the high school lies within county jurisdiction and the other schools within the city limits.

The Rockland school district also uses the DIR-S app.

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