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Capturing the Moment

Does the public ever get to know about the good things your officers do on a daily basis? With today’s smart phones it can be as simple as taking a picture or creating a short video. That is exactly what an Omaha Police Officer did when he met up with two fellow officers.

Officers Barnes and Groth rescuing Mayala and Trouble.

Police Officers Barnes and Groth were on duty driving on the interstate on one of the coldest days of the year when they spotted two dogs in traffic. Rather than just driving on down the road, they stopped their cruisers and rescued the dogs. While that is a great story and, one of many that officers perform daily, what makes this moment even better is an officer’s foresight to document it.

When the officers returned with the dogs, a quick 30 second video about the dogs’ rescue and quick picture were taken. Let me just say this again… a 30 second video and a quick snapshot. That’s all the time that it took to make a huge positive impact for our department.

Realizing the value of the picture and video, the officer quickly posted it on the Omaha Police Officers Association Facebook Page under the heading, “ More Evidence… Cops Love Dogs,” and we shared it on the Omaha Police Department’s Facebook Page.

So let’s take a look at the numbers from this one post. At the time of this writing and between the two Facebook pages, the post was shared almost 400 times, had over 250 comments, the majority of which praised officers for saving the dogs, and was seen by 94,000 people! And believe it or not, it was picked up by one of the four local news stations who ran two great positive new stories.

We all know from firsthand experience that, if it were a negative cop/dog story, all the stations would have covered it, however this is a great example of how to create your own positive press relations in your community.   (After the dogs were turned over to the Humane Society, the owner signed papers to have the dogs adopted. Once that went public, he tried to get the dogs back. However he had an active warrant for cruelty to animals and the rest of the dogs were removed from the house.)

So who captures your positive moments on your department? Do your officers understand the value of positive press? Do your command officers understand the value of positive press? These are questions you should consider asking and consider when drafting social media policies. Find officers that are willing to capture and share those good moments. Share positive photos and videos on your department’s Facebook, Twitter and blogs. Utilize the free marketing campaign that is at your fingertips. It’s our favorite price… FREE!

Waiting in the wings is that next negative situation that will go public and make us all look bad. Why not get ahead of that and start promoting all the good things that your department does. Good stories happen every day. Make sure your department capitalizes on them. 30 seconds is a very short time to make an impact… good or bad!


Bridget is a 17 year veteran of the Omaha Police Department. Her work as a Crime Prevention Specialist has given her insight to many of the communities concerns. She has been one of the administrators of the OPD Facebook page for approximately 2 years. Her involvement as a Facebook administrator has been instrumental in increasing the fan base for the page and helping to control the fallout due to controversial issues.

Editor’s note: Fitzpatrick is the recipient of the first ConnectedCOPS “Civilian Award of Excellence” with social media.

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.

HERO911 is a new smartphone app that alerts law enforcement officers of a nearby active school shooting. LEOs can download the free app from iTunes and Google Play stores. With one touch, the teacher’s panic button app simultaneously calls 911, notifies every teacher’s smart phone within the school, and activates the HERO911 Network™ of police officers who have voluntarily downloaded the free app. The smart phone technology displays a mapped location of the initial alert, the number of uniformed and non-uniformed officers who acknowledged the alert, and a continuous timer that displays minutes and seconds since the emergency activation.

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™.

For additional information, please visit www.HERO911.org and www.SchoolGuard.com.

Police countdown to Christmas with #Badvent calendars

Police Social Media ingenuity

English police forces have been at the forefront of using digital technology in general and social media in particular to develop innovative ways of engaging with their local communities. If you’re interested in police use of Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest and the rest, you can check out a whole range of examples here.

Christmas 2013 has seen a new trend – digital Advent Calendars with a diversity of approach, to say the least. This post features a couple of examples.

Greater Manchester Police Child’s Play

Greater Manchester Police – @gmpolice on Twitter – are acknowledged as being one of the leading forces in using social media. They spent considerable time and energy working with local primary school children to produce a series of short videos. The theme is “Christmas Safety is Child’s Play” and the videos are uploaded daily and promoted via Twitter, Facebook etc.

GM Police seem to have a knack of doing this sort of thing well, high production values but with real people. Here’s the first video in the series:

The #Badvent Calendar

Nottinghamshire Police – @nottspolice – went in a different direction entirely. Their online advent calendar replaces the daily chocolate with the picture of a “most wanted” local criminal. Originally termed the #Badvent Calendar, it was renamed the “Festive Crime Calendar”. It’s still a strong contender for my hashtag of the year award.


Unfortunately, at the time of writing, none of the first nine miscreants has been apprehended.

You can get an update here

Please contribute any other seasonal comms ingenuity via the comment section below.

Augmented Reality, a Reality?

For several years there has been talk and speculation about what augmented reality (AR) would really become, what it could or for that matter couldn’t do and why would we care?

Well, here it is, but wait, it has already been in use for several years so why are we just now hearing more about it? That has much to do with the 800 pound Gorilla in the room. Yes that’s Google.

Google has created the first truly wearable augmented reality, Google Glass. First, I should explain what AR really is. It is “simply” adding layers of data on top of the reality you see. For instance, if I am looking at the outside of what might become my next favorite place to eat but I need to know more about it I can use AR to layer information over the reality I see such as, reviews, the menu etc. etc. right in front of my eyes.

Now, Google Glass takes that to the next level. Here you have a wearable device that takes commands in various ways such as head movement, sound etc. to tell me almost anything I want to know without having to whip out that annoying phone or stop what I am doing and do a search.

Well, that’s the fun part of this technology so what does or could it do for us in the emergency services field? First, from the public’s end, those using this technology will have access to information on the fly and be able to communicate information to others on the fly without so much as looking at a phone. It will give them access to information on where they are, what’s around them and even, possibly who they are looking at.

This poses some challenges and opportunities for us. First, the people using this technology will have an increased knowledge of the world around them and even us. As time and technology move forward, people will have access to more and more information, literally at the blink of an eye. Some challenges for let’s say, law enforcement is that this may give a person a law enforcement officer is dealing with, an edge that they never had before. For example, if at the same time a person is interacting with an officer the person can pull up data on the officers department and the training they are given, it may give them an opportunity to take advantage of that officer’s weaknesses in a fight.

But, just think of the knowledge it could provide first responders? Maybe not today, but in the future the possibilities exist with facial recognition to be able to wear a device like Google Glass and scan a crowd for a suspect where the glasses would alert you to when you find someone with an outstanding warrant or someone suspected in a crime. Also, think of the possibilities of having a technology like this so first responders could just look at a building and see its layout and schematics. What about being able to roll up on the scene of a major disaster and be able to see what the area looked like before. Not like looking at a map but real images layered over what you are seeing right in front of you. This may drastically increase responders’ ability to rescue people safely and in a faster manner.

With all “new” technology, there will be up and downsides to it. But, if we as the response community can allow our inner five year old imaginations run wild, I think we can turn this technology into something wonderful that protects us and saves lives.

Master Deputy Tom Erickson has been with the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office for the past 18 years. He has served in several capacities within the office to include as the Public Information Officer for the past 10 years. Tom is an early adopter of social media both personally and professionally and has successfully integrated multiple platforms in his agency and assisted with the Kansas Incident Management Teams implementation and use of social media before, during and after disasters.

Sign up to get Twitter Alerts from your emergency services

Emergency Tweets

Twitter has just launched a new service in the UK – “Twitter Alerts”. This is a new facility (already tested in the US) aimed at emergency services to enable them to get critical information out as quickly as possible to the general public.

All the UK’s 47 police services, the London Fire Brigade and Ambulance Service, Mayor of London, the Foreign Office and the Environment Agency have all signed up (you can see a full list of participating services here). From 18 November 2013, these organisations will be able to highlight critical information to their Twitter followers by marking Tweets as alerts, which highlight a Tweet with an orange bell for added visibility.

Twitter users who sign up for an account’s Twitter Alerts will receive a notification directly to their phone via SMS. Users of Twitter for iPhone or Twitter for Android will also receive a push notification direct to their mobile. It’s a very straightforward process to subscribe – it took me 10 seconds to sign up to the Met Police Twitter Alert page here. Twitter even filled in my mobile phone number automatically for me.

Twitter Alerts in action

It is up to each emergency service to decide in what circumstances it should use a Twitter Alert. But, obviously, services will want to restrict their use carefully to crisis, disaster and emergency communications where spreading accurate safety information is critical.

Here are a few examples of real-life Twitter Alerts from the US:


Tornado Watch in effect for all of NJ. Be prepared to act quickly if warnings are issued by NWS. http://t.co/bLiQJE5qyb #alert

— NJ OEM (@ReadyNJ) October 7, 2013


USCP investigating reports of gunshots on Capitol Hill. If in a #Senate office, shelter in place. If not go to nearest office. #alert

— SenateSergeantAtArms (@SenateSAA) October 3, 2013


It’s easy to think of recent circumstances in the UK where Twitter Alerts would have been invaluable. Ones that spring to my mind include:

  • When the murderer Raoul Moat was on the run in Northumbria
  • When the two people who murdered drummer Lee Rigby in Woolwich were still at large
  • During the course of the recent storms on 28 October 2013

Twitter Alerts would also be an invaluable resource around major fires and bomb alerts. The fact that so many people are almost always online via their mobile phones means not only that critical information can be disseminated at great speed but also that those of us receiving the alerts can share and pass them on and target them at loved ones we know might be in harm’s way.

It will be interesting to see how Twitter Alerts operate in practice in the UK.


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