PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) – A new security system is being piloted at a Newport News high school.
Since the shooting at Richneck Elementary this past January, Newport News Public Schools has added metal detectors and SROs in every building, and it has also added Raptor emergency management software at Denbigh High School.
Raptor technology has been around since 2003. A lot of school divisions in our area, including Chesapeake, Virginia Beach and Newport News, already use the company’s visitor software to check in guests at school.
In 2017, the company developed a safety software in case of an active shooter.
“If you’re on your phone and you see an active shooter, you just open the app,” said David Rogers of Raptor Technologies.
Rogers serves as the chief marketing officer for the Houston-based tech company.
“What it has allowed you to do is react very quickly to an event,” Rogers said.
Rogers explained that once a safety alert is initiated, the software immediately contacts 911, school administrators and faculty. It can be accessed on a phone, tablet, iPad or computer.
“It pulls up a roster for the classroom so you’re able to account for the kids,” Rogers said.
Those using the app can also speak directly to law enforcement in an emergency, and vice versa.
“If you’re moving kids off the playground to the gym, you’re able to start chatting, ‘Hey, watch us come through this door because we’re bringing the kids in,'” Rogers said.
Rogers said the app can also be integrated with metal detectors and school P.A. systems.
“About 15% of the schools in the country are utilizing our emergency management software today,” Rogers said.
In our area, 14 school divisions in Virginia and six in North Carolina use Raptor’s emergency management software. One of the closest school divisions to us using it is about 180 miles south down U.S. Route 17 in Craven County, North Carolina.
So we hit the road to talk to the school division’s director of safety and security Nick Lucas.
“The notification aspect is wonderful,” Lucas said. “As long as you have the application on your phone, as long as you have your cell number properly in the system, you get instantaneous notification once it’s called away on the application.”
Lucas said Craven County Schools has used the software for the last four years and has trained all 3,000 district employees on how to use it.
“We’ve actually used it five times (in February),” Lucas said. “We used it for two actual fire evacuations, for a secure perimeter, emergency for a hold and for an actual lockdown on one of our middle school campuses.”
Since the Raptor emergency management app was released in 2017, it has been used in more than 3,000 lockdowns across the country – 84 of them were active shooters.
Lucas has followed the news about the shooting at Richneck Elementary School.
“Whenever you hear of an incident of that magnitude of course it makes you sit up and take notice,” Lucas said. You know, it’s scary. It’s the type of thing that keeps somebody like me in my position, it wakes me up at night worrying about it sometimes.”
The retired law enforcement officer stressed that preparation is key.
“The biggest thing we can do is we can train, we can prepare and we can have as many things in place as possible to keep our school systems just as safe as we possibly can,” Lucas said. “Having SROs in every campus is a huge plus. Having a system like Raptor alert is huge as well. We can respond much quicker in an emergency and get into a safe location, evacuate. Whatever the case may be.”