Free app alerts nearby officers of active school shootings
Whether on or off duty, LEOs can now receive immediate “active shooter” notifications on their iPhone or Android smartphones.
It’s been one year since the second deadliest mass murder at a U.S. elementary school. On December 14, 2012, 20 children and six adults were shot to death at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Since then, decades-long conversations and debates around gun control, the effects of video games, mental health funding and treatment, and onsite school security protocols have been renewed, with intense and desperate focus on protecting our nation’s children.
At Sandy Hook, the school’s security system had recently been upgraded prior to the shooting – the school doors locked each morning at 9:30 a.m. and visitors had to be visually identified before being allowed to enter the school. Unfortunately, that wasn’t enough to keep the gunman from forcing his way into the school.
Short of turning each school building in the country into a prison-like setting with metal detectors, bullet proof glass (or no glass doors and windows at all), and armed security guards stationed throughout, is there anything that can be done to prevent this type of tragedy from ever happening again?
“We may never be able to prevent these extreme acts of violence, but we can reduce the amount of time in which there is nothing standing between a gunman and his victims, and ultimately, we can save more lives,” said retired Illinois State Police Colonel Michael Snyders, president of the Social Protection Network Foundation.
A new smartphone app—HERO911—has been created exclusively for federal, state and local law enforcement officers (LEOs) and has the potential to dramatically reduce response time and increase the available pool of police officers who can respond to a school shooting.
“Our country’s 911 system is very sophisticated and effective,” said Snyders. “But there are multiple steps involved between making a call to 911 and help arriving on the scene.” A call made to 911 is routed to a centralized 911 call center that may or may not be experiencing a high volume of calls. Once answered, the caller must explain the situation and it must be interpreted by the 911 operator. The operator directs the call to the appropriate agency, who then must also interpret the situation before dispatching officers to the scene. “The average school shooting lasts 12 minutes,” noted Snyders.
The HERO911 Network™ adopted the phrase “When Seconds Saves Lives” in the creation of the HERO911 app, resulting in a means to make an immediate call to 911 of an active school shooting via the push of a button. A simultaneous, direct notification is sent to police officers within a 10 to 15 mile radius (dependent on demographics/geography), whether they are on and off duty. This completely eliminates the explanation and dispatch processes. In one second, the entire emergency response system knows there is an active school shooting and exactly where it is.
The smart phone technology displays a mapped location of the initial alert, the number of uniformed and non-uniformed officers who acknowledged the alert, along with a continuous timer that displays minutes and seconds since the emergency activation. The app works nationwide, so officers will be alerted of an active school shooter incident even while traveling.
The app is only available to sworn law enforcement officers and qualified retired law enforcement officers (as defined by Title 18 USC § 926C). While anyone can download the app, it will only be activated for those who can show law enforcement credentials – once downloaded, the smartphone’s camera feature will open and the user will be prompted to take and send a photo of his or her law enforcement identification. Any police officer who has downloaded the free app will receive the “active shooter” alert, increasing the number of potential responders by as much as 784 percent.
The HERO911 Network™ works in tandem with SchoolGuard™ – a teacher’s panic button app that can only be activated on school grounds by school staff. SchoolGuard™ was developed by Guard911, LLC and is currently being implemented in schools across the nation. There is a fee to set up the application throughout the school, as well as a monthly service fee.
“SchoolGuardTM puts into place innovative and strategic applications to the technology that we have all become familiar: the ‘app,’” said Susanne Buxbaum, a child’s rights advocate and former teacher from central California. “The educators and administrators I work with most often consider themselves to be optimists. We like to think of all schools as being safe environments, but unfortunately this is no longer always so.”
Buxbaum, who visits no less than 10 schools each week, explains that educators and administrators at every school in which she works, without fail, are looking for something to make them feel safer. She believes SchoolGuardTM is that solution.
With the help and input from police, Guard911 developed this school shooting panic button app that simultaneously calls 911, notifies every teacher’s smart phone within the school, activates the HERO911 Network™ of police officers, and alerts all surrounding schools that are on the SchoolGuardTM system. In order to limit the HERO911 Network™ response to school shootings only, the teacher’s panic button app also provides a separate “911 Only” button and a separate “Teacher Assist” button for intra school, non-shooting emergencies. See smart phone display image.
“I am so enthusiastic about this product that I invited representatives from Guard911 to meet with the district superintendents of the 12 public schools I serve in my five-county region in southeastern Illinois, said Monte Newlin,” Regional Superintendent of Schools in Illinois. “The response from those present was every bit as enthusiastic as mine.”
According to Snyders, a team of police officers and technology experts have spent months developing and fine tuning both applications that are now ready to go.
“Our challenge now will be to make sure that every officer and every school in the nation knows they are available,” said Snyders.
All law enforcement officers are encouraged to download the free HERO911 app from Apple iTunes or Google Play. Additionally, encourage your colleagues to join the HERO911 Network™ and invite the schools in your communities to consider implementing SchoolGuard™.