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New Technology Helping School Districts Prepare In Case Of An Emergency

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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- Inventors of a technology says it can save lives during school emergencies, from shootings like the massacre on Valentine's Day at a high school in Florida, to fires and other dangerous situations. And three local school districts appear to be sold on the idea.

The South Fayette and Quaker Valley school districts are already using technology from NaviGate Prepared, and West Jefferson Hills has just approved a contract to buy it.

NaviGate is a software program that takes everything from a school's comprehensive safety plan to building blueprints, including the locations of hazardous chemicals, fire alarms, even utility shut off valves, and turns that information into a cloud-based system that can be accessed by school officials, dispatchers and first responders.

The centerpiece of the system is a real-time camera system that provides a 360-degree view of every room, hallway and door in a school building that can be accessed online by computer, tablet or mobile phone.

Leetsdale Police Chief John English is a fan of the system, which has been in place in the Quaker Valley Schools for three years. He says it could mean the difference between life and death in situations like school shootings where seconds count.

"When a bad guy comes in, he's going to go everywhere, and do whatever he wants," said English.

The chief points out that it can waste valuable time while police search a school building and grounds for a shooter. But under this system, dispatchers logged on to the program can tell responders right away where to look.

"If there is an active shooter at one of the schools, the dispatch center can be able to say, 'Check this hallway or that hallway,'" English said.

School resource Officer Aaron Vanatta was part of a re-training demonstration of the system for first responders at Quaker Valley Middle School. He says NaviGate is not just for active shooter attacks.

"We have railroad right behind us, we have the river behind us, we have a major highway behind us, we have an industrial plant down across the highway from our high school," pointed out Officer Vanatta. "Whether it's a chemical fire, or a train derailment, or something happening on the river, or an intruder, we need to be prepared for those."

During the re-training, teachers and other school staff were brought up to date on the preparedness program's "Respond App." It's a mobile phone-based system that allows school authorities to keep everyone in the district and in individual school buildings on the same page when there's an emergency.

The chief hopes they never need the system, but if they do, he's glad they have it.

"Recent history shows you the importance of something like this," he said.

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