Two armed teenagers entered Columbine High School a little before lunch on April 20, 1999.
It took three minutes after the shooting began before a 911 call went out. It was minutes later before any help arrived and more than 30 minutes before a SWAT team finally made entry. By then a dozen students had been murdered.
On the morning of Dec. 12, 2012, Adam Lanza used an assault rifle to blast his way into Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut. It took almost 15 minutes before he was finally spotted by police officers, which prompted him to shoot himself. By then he’d killed 20 children and six adults.
In both these tragedies, if teachers or administrators at the schools had been able to notify law enforcement faster, prompting a faster response time, who knows how many additional lives might have been saved?
“In the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary, six minutes passed between the first 911 call and the time before the first officer was dispatched to the scene,” said Ron Woessner, CEO of COPsync, Inc. “And that’s not unusual. This alert system can save time because it’s straight to the patrol unit. In these situation minutes, and even seconds, count.”
Woessner’s company has created a new type of software, utilizing GPS, that could cut response time in such scenarios by more than half. Late last month, right before the school year came to an end, Paradise ISD became one of the first schools in the nation to implement it.
“What we’re talking about is an emergency alert system that lets a teacher send an emergency alert from a computer in their classroom directly to the patrol vehicles of the five closest law enforcement officers and to the local dispatch system,” Woessner said. “It also creates a chat room between the teacher and all the patrol officers where they can communicate with each other in real time.”
It’s like a panic button but with a lot of extra features. Panic buttons generally just notify dispatch with no additional information.
The click of a mouse activities this system and also goes to the computer and cell phone of every other teacher and administrator in the school – or anyone else who needs to be contacted in a worst-case scenario, such as having an active shooter inside the school.
In addition to sending out the alert and allowing real-time chat between all parties, it identifies what room the alert came from and provides officers with a map of the school and, in the event of a lockdown, instructions on how to gain entry. All of these measures are designed to help save precious response time.
“It’s not a button you push for a disruption in the classroom but for a life-and-death situation,” said Wise County Sheriff David Walker. “Hopefully it’s an insurance policy we’ll never need.”
COPsync, headquartered in Dallas, installed the software in the first schools in late April. Paradise ISD went online in late May, and is one of only a handful of districts in the state using it.
Local law enforcement agencies must already have the COPsync software to communicate with the district using it. The Wise County Sheriff’s Office, Boyd, Rhome and Runaway Bay police departments have it in their vehicles.
COPsync was originally created to help officers keep track of each other whenever one of them is placed in a dangerous situation.
“It lets us connect with other agencies and each other faster,” Walker said.
The idea to expand the technology to schools came on the heels of the deadly shooting in Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut last December, Woessner said.
The technology will cost Paradise $2,400 for the first year and $1,200 for each additional year.
“We want to be able to put this technology in the hands of every school district in the great state of Texas and eventually across the nation,” Woessner said.”We hope it never has to be used. But if it is needed, we want it to be in place and used.
“There are some initiatives out there to arm teachers with guns,” he said. “This is arming them with technology.”