Teachers use app to give active shooter alerts in Central Florida

By: Lauren Seabrook , James Tutte from WFTV 9 ABC Orlando


SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla. – Many teachers around Central Florida now have the power in the palm of their hands to to dispatch hundreds of first responders for an active shooter, through an app.

The Parkland Safety Commission wants all school districts to give law enforcement agencies live access to their security cameras.

The American Civil Liberties Union worries it would violate privacy laws, but the app gets around that.

Brevard, Osceola, Lake and Sumter counties are all now using this emergency system. But Seminole County was first to deploy it three years ago, long before the mass shooting in Parkland.

And after the Parkland shooting, leaders from about a dozen school districts are looking for advice on it.

It costs about $3,000 to set up a school with the service, officials said. And that adds up when you’re talking about connecting every school.

But Seminole County safety leaders said you can’t put a price on saving lives.

During the Parkland school shooting, law enforcement agencies tried to track the gunman’s path on school cameras. But the cameras were on a 20-minute delay.

Other districts don’t want to deal with the same issue.

Seminole County public schools uses Mutualink.

“It’s a panic button,” said Capt. Rick Francis, school safety director with Seminole County Public Schools. “And it gives each teacher the ability to report an active shooter from their smartphone.”

When users hold a button for a second and a half, it instantly notifies hundreds of people at the sheriff’s office, local police department, 911 communications and fire rescue.

First responders then have protected live access to the school’s cameras and uses GPS to send an Amber-type alert to all officers who may be patrolling nearby.

The service also features a silent mode that signals all teachers at the school to lock down their classrooms.

“When these come in, we already know who’s calling. We know where they’re at, and we know what emergency they’re declaring already,” said Francis.

This will save precious time when you consider most school shootings, including Parkland, are over in less than four minutes.

At Seminole’s district command center, officers can send screenshots of the shooter or floor plans of the school to first responders.

Francis said the active shooter button only triggers a massive response if a teacher is within the school’s geofence.

The safety director can also send video clips of a victim who has been shot straight to the doctor who may be operating on the victim.

The ACLU said it is on board with this, because as soon as the event is over, live access to cameras goes away.

Published On: January 16th, 2019 / By / Categories: News /