Bangor Superintendent James Tager. The Bangor School Department is partnering with a company that will outfit staff members with badges that will allow them to alert police instantly to emergencies. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

Staff members at Bangor schools will soon wear badges they can use to alert emergency responders and police instantly in the case of a school shooting or lower-level emergency.

The Bangor School Department has partnered with Centegix, an Atlanta company that provides a crisis alert system designed for large education, health care and commercial spaces. Some 250 school districts across the Southeast already use the system, and Bangor will be the first in New England.

Bangor Superintendent James Tager said the need for a faster emergency alert system became apparent after a lone gunman killed 19 children and two teachers at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, in late May.

Centegix will supply each Bangor staff member with a wearable badge, roughly the size of a credit card, with a single button on it.

Pressing the button three times will alert an in-school emergency team of a lower-level emergency like a medical episode, mental health crisis or student conflict, Jeff Downs, a Centegix representative, told the school committee Wednesday. Outside law enforcement will not automatically be called in these cases.

If a staff member presses the button continuously, until it beeps, it will signal a larger crisis, such as an active shooter, and local law enforcement will automatically be notified. Lights in the school will flash, every screen in the school will show an emergency notification, and the school intercom system will play an alert message telling students to lock down, Downs said.

No matter the kind of alert, the system tells first responders exactly where in the school the emergency is happening, according to Downs. The system can also be used elsewhere on school campuses, including playgrounds, parking lots and athletic fields.

Designated school staff can also use a Centegix app on their phones to specify how students should respond to an emergency, such as whether students should lock down (meaning students lock themselves in classrooms, turn off the lights, get away from windows and stay out of sight), shelter in place or evacuate, and audio and visual emergency notifications will change accordingly, according to Bangor School Department spokesperson Ray Phinney.

The platform is designed to be faster and more reliable than using a cell phone to call for help or report an emergency, as the system doesn’t use a school’s wifi or local cell service. If schools use a reporting system platform on an app or if the school relies on staff to call 911, Downs said that process can be cumbersome in an emergency.

“You have to get out your phone, unlock your phone, open the app and initiate the alert,” Downs said. “That’s a lot of movements to do in a chaotic situation.”

Centegix will distribute the alert badges to each staff member in the coming months, install software on school computers and intercom systems, and add alert lights to the buildings. The system is expected to be active on Jan. 2, 2023, Phinney said.

The five-year deal cost the department roughly $408,500, according to Phinney.

The school department decided to revisit its safety protocols after the shooting in Uvalde in the spring, Tager said.

The Uvalde massacre is the country’s deadliest K-12 school shooting since Dec. 14, 2012, when Adam Lanza killed 20 children and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

While Bangor police can reach Bangor schools in a minute-and-a-half to three minutes, Tager said he wanted to make sure emergencies can be reported immediately, as the Uvade shooting showed the difference law enforcement response times can make to the number of casualties in a crisis.

“After Uvalde happened, the community became more concerned about safety,” Tager said. “Every parent wants to know when their kid goes to school that they’ll come home safely. This is one more step to protect our kids, faculty and staff.”

The U.S. has seen 30 school shootings so far this year,  according to Education Week. Some 28 people have died and 59 have been injured in those shootings. Since 2018, there have been 122 school shootings across the country.

With about three months left in the year, the U.S. could surpass the 34 school shootings that caused injuries or deaths in 2021, Education Week reported.

Avatar photo

Kathleen O'Brien

Kathleen O'Brien is a reporter covering the Bangor area. Born and raised in Portland, she joined the Bangor Daily News in 2022 after working as a Bath-area reporter at The Times Record. She graduated from...