SYRACUSE — According to Homeland Security, the average response time for an active shooter incident in a school is about 16 minutes. Often, though, incidents are finished in less than 10 minutes.
Technology in smartphones, which more and more people have these days, has been harnessed to hopefully significantly reduce the response time of law enforcement. SchoolGuard is an app where at the touch of a button a shooting incident is communicated “directly to officers if they have the Hero (911) app,” said Steve Perek, assistant principal of Wawasee High School.
Through a Homeland Security grant distributed by Kosciusko County Emergency Management, the Wawasee Community School Corporation is implementing the SchoolGuard app. Perek and Syracuse Police Officer Joe Leach have visited all of the schools in the corporation to provide training to staff members with the exception of Milford School, which is scheduled to be trained Wednesday, March 27. Other county schools utilizing the app are the Tippecanoe Valley School Corporation, Whitko Community Schools, Lakeland Christian Academy, Sacred Heart School and Warsaw Christian School.
SchoolGuard is straightforward and once the app is downloaded on a smartphone, simply touching a button immediately notifies law enforcement officers in the vicinity who have the Hero 911 app on their phone. There are no words involved, but rather simply an emergency alert message. Pushing the button also automatically dials 911 and notifies other teachers in the building.
Perek noted the app would eliminate calling dispatch and then a dispatcher contacting law enforcement. He said in Kosciusko County, depending on where a call comes in, calls can sometimes be routed to Elkhart County dispatch and then routed back to Kosciusko County, thereby increasing response times.
Safeguards are built into the app in the event a button is pushed by mistake. When the button is pushed, verification is required.
Mapping is a key component of SchoolGuard and each school has its own “geofence,” or a specific area where the app will work. For example, at the high school it would include anywhere within a campus building, the parking lots, likely the athletic fields and the welding facility and marine mechanics building on Chicago Street.
Perek noted the mapping is specific enough for law enforcement to see where they need to go.
Just how much the app could reduce response time remains to be seen, but Perek commented the representative for SchoolGuard said he is aware of a situation where officers responded in about two minutes to an incident. Of course it would depend on where an officer is located when being notified of an incident.
“This could be the best mode of communication because just about everyone has a smartphone,” Perek said.
SchoolGuard also has a function where the principal can communicate with staff members such as during severe weather or a fire for a couple of examples.