One of Stephanie Pederson’s students broke her arm during recess at St. Francis Xavier School in Sartell. At the time, Pederson was supervising 18 4-year-olds by herself and calling for help required hands that she didn’t have free. That experience, coupled with teacher concerns about communications during crisis drills, got her thinking that teachers need a more efficient way to request help. She brought the idea to her husband, Greg, who, with other entrepreneurs, created a device that lets teachers and staff call for help with the push of a button.
Badge Messenger is a communitions system the size of a credit card, with buttons that call for security, medical assistance, maintenance, and more. The alerts register at a base station in the school office dubbed CAREL (communicate, alert, respond, evaluate, learn). A small screen on the badge alerts wearers when their message has been received, and again when it has been processed. In the event of a lockdown, fire drill, or another situation requiring monitoring of the entire faculty, users can hit response buttons to verify whether they are safe. If a teacher indicates that he or she is unsafe, or if no response is registered, administrators know exactly where to direct emergency services.
The number of school shootings more than doubled from 2017 to 2018, from 44 to 97, according to the U.S. Center for Homeland Defense & Security. It’s no surprise that the development of safety devices is growing exponentially.
A number of tools exist for lockdowns, like Lokdown, an app for cloud-based communication in the event of an emergency, and Seilox Class Crisis Lockdown Alert Status System, a web-based software system for automated alerts and status updates. Badge Messenger distinguishes itself by offering everyday applications.
“We realized that teachers need stuff all the time, every day, and almost never—hopefully never—is it a lockdown except during a drill,” says Greg Pederson, who is vice president of research and development. “So the idea is that if you’re going to spend money on something, it would be nice it if worked for you every day.”
The patent-pending Badge Messenger system operates on its own encrypted wireless network, which extends up to 10 miles in open air. That’s key, says Mike Muggli, Badge Messenger’s vice president of operations. Sometimes Wi-Fi and phone networks don’t work or slow down during an emergency.
With $960,000 in total funding from private investors, Badge Messenger is currently running two pilot programs, one at St. Francis Xavier in Sartell, and another at a West Virginia school. At least two other Minnesota schools will be testing Badge Messenger in the coming months. The system costs about $10,000 for a school with 50 staff members and does not charge recurring maintenance or subscription fees.
Schools aren’t the only potential clients. Insurance companies, a hotel corporation, and a nuclear power plant have also expressed interest in using Badge Messenger software, which is customizable to each user’s needs.