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Idaho School Installs RTLS to Make Students Safer

Employees at Skyview High School wear Ekahau Wi-Fi badges that can be used to call for help in the event of a security threat or medical emergency, and also trigger a lockdown.
By Claire Swedberg

Because the Ekahau solution works in conjunction with the school's existing Wi-Fi network, it was relatively inexpensive to implement, Ford says. The total price tag came to just over $30,000, including RFID tags, IR beacons and software—a cost covered by funding from an anonymous donor. The technology is scalable so that if other schools in the Nampa School District choose to utilize the same technology, they would need only acquire the tags.

Since the system was taken live earlier this month, approximately 100 staff members, including teachers, have been wearing Ekahau B4 badge tags, which come with three independent alarm triggers: a pull-down safety switch, as well as red and blue buttons, each option representing a specific type of emergency. The pull-down button is intended to prompt a full "lockdown" of the school (issuing alerts to every employee, as well as to the police), while the other two buttons signify a health or general emergency, respectively.

Skyview's Bradley Ford

In the event that any of the three options is triggered, Ekahau's Vision software, residing on the school's back-end system, captures and interprets the data (based on the particular button pressed and the tag's location). Within about four seconds, the software sends a message directly to the appropriate badges within the facility, thereby alerting personnel to the emergency's nature and location. Staff members can then view the text message on their badge's light-emitting diode (LED) screen and, if appropriate, report to a specific area. Ford can also rush to the scene and determine what step should be taken next, such as summoning an ambulance or calling a parent. During a "lockdown" alert, software can transmit the message directly to Nampa's police department.

The tags are not linked to individual staff members, but rather to the worker's role at the school, such as teacher, administrator or security personnel. The software links the tag's ID number is linked to that individual's location, so that as a tag moves throughout the school, the software displays a color-coded icon moving around a map of the site, representing his or her role. Ford has a unique color linked to the badge he uses, so that employees can always view his location within the two-building facility.

The system was set up in the following way, Ford reports: The red button indicates a general problem, such as an unruly student requiring assistance from security. That button has been used once since the system was taken live three weeks ago, he notes, when a teacher was concerned that a student might be under a narcotic's influence. Security personnel quickly reported to the room and were able to attend to the student, who was determined to be all right.

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