In active shooter situations, timing means everything

In active shooter situations, timing means everything

Schools, police team up for ‘I’m Safe’ communication and response app program

LINCOLN – It’s a situation no teacher wants to be faced with: protecting a classroom of students from an active shooter or intruder.

It’s not something 5th-grade teacher Michael Maloof at Lonsdale Elementary, or Fred Hoppe, special education educator at Lincoln Middle School, say they think about often, but they now feel more prepared, thanks to multiple training programs and the “I’m Safe for Schools” software.

Through collaboration with the Police Department, staff members and administrators at each of Lincoln’s six public schools received training on “I’m Safe” technology, which combines an app and program that can be used on a smartphone, iPad and desktop.

Here’s how it works: Teachers have an app on their phone or iPad that allows them to click and choose from four options – “Send Help,” “Danger Nearby,” “We’re OK” or “Offsite.” From here, colored dots appear on a school site map: Red for “Help,” yellow for “Danger Nearby,” green for “OK” and blue for “Offsite.”

Staff members can add comments after selecting any of the buttons, to add details such as “man in parking lot in black jacket with a gun,” Lincoln police Capt. Philip Gould explained.

If a teacher or classroom is threatened, or a dangerous situation arises where students are located, the teacher can click “Send Help,” and the Police Department, connected to each of the schools through the “I’m Safe” software, can locate the threat to each room within the school.

If a group of students and their teacher evacuate the building to flee, the staff member or teacher can push the “Offsite” option, and the app kicks into GPS mode. Police can pull up a “site view,” and receive a snapshot of where classes have evacuated to, and whether or not every student is accounted for.

If a teacher is missing someone, the “Send Help” button can be used, and comments such as “Student X not accounted for” can be added.

Like Lincoln Police, the school superintendent over in the central administration building can pull up an overview of each school, if an incident arises, to see which schools are facing threats, and which classrooms or areas are danger zones. Gould explained he’s also working closely with school secretaries for the program, which is expected to be up and running completely in a few weeks.

If a teacher or staff member hits an alert, that message is sent directly to school and central administrators and police, Gould said. With the area maps available on the software, he explained, police know exactly where exits are located at each school.

Briana McCain, CEO and co-founder of I’m Safe Apps, maintained that the “I’m Safe” program is a closed system, and no social media is involved. The only parties that can view maps, or send and view these alerts, are individuals that have direct access to the specific “I’m Safe” account.

McCain explained that Gould began offering suggestions about three years ago to make the program more efficient and user-friendly, and the “I’m Safe for Schools” program has been tweaked since, thanks to his advice.

Timing means everything in these situations, Gould said, and with communication through the technology, first responders know where to go once they arrive on scene.

As noted in documentation provided by I’m Safe Apps, the Federal Bureau of Investigation reported there were 160 active shooter incidents between 2000 and 2013. Of those incidents, nearly 70 percent ended in five minutes or less, with 23 ending in 2 minutes or less, according to the FBI study, noted in the I’m Safe packet.

McCain said with this technology, first responders “have the information before you’re even there, so there’s no time lost.”

Gould explained that this communication, combined with ALICE (Alert Lockdown Inform Counter Evacuate) training, can help school faculty feel more prepared to face an intruder.

ALICE training has already been completed in the district, he explained, where teachers learn more aggressive tactics to use if an intruder makes their way into the classroom.

Maloof said this type of training requires teachers to actively participate, rather that just watch a video.

“That’s kind of difficult for teachers, but you start to realize how important it is,” he said, explaining that through the training, teachers learn how to become more aware of their surroundings and what they can do “to keep your kids safe within the four walls of your classroom.”

“As teachers, that’s the last thing we want to think about,” Maloof said, but these programs force school faculty to learn responses to these emergency situations.

Having the “I’m Safe” updates, Gould said, can help teachers maintain composure in front of students.

Hoppe said in these types of situations, the children look to their teachers to know how to react.

Maloof said, “We do much better when the kids are calm and following directions.”

“They’re still young, but they’re aware. You can’t hide them from the fact that things have happened in other schools,” he said.

Hoppe said students learn what to do through practice drills at schools, such as lockdowns, but said teachers are also working to make sure students don’t become “desensitized” to these drills while simultaneously ensuring kids aren’t coming to school in fear.

Hoppe and Maloof applauded Gould and Lincoln Police for their work collaborating and bringing the program to the school district.

“You train for this, and you hope you will never, ever use this,” Hoppe said.