SOMERSET — The president of the company that produces the In Force software that will be implemented in Somerset schools soon said he believes the software could have saved lives at the Parkland, Fla. high school where 17 people were killed during shootings there in February.
Brandon Flanagan, president and chief executive officer of In Force Technology, which is based in Danvers, Mass., said that the Somerset Police Department was the first in southeastern Massachusetts to sign on to use the In Force Technology that he said is a real time threat alert and notification system. He said that teachers, faculty and staff in schools will have an app that they can use in life threatening situations that will allow them to click on an icon that will send a message to the Police Department’s dispatch center in less than 12 seconds, as well as to cell phones of police officers and cruisers. Flanagan said it would normally take two to four minutes for someone to dial 911 and for information to be sent out to police in cruisers. Flanagan said the app will give police information right down to the classroom number where the person is and where the threat is coming from. The software is meant to reduce response time for police in active shooter situations.
“That can ultimately save lives,” Flanagan said.
Flanagan said the In Force Technology is in more than 60 communities across Massachusetts, as well as in 13 or 14 other states across the country. He said Stoneman Douglas High School did not have similar technology when the shootings took place there. He said there was a 10-minute delay in what police were seeing on security cameras there.
Flanagan said that his company and himself was invited to Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. after the shootings happened there in February. He said that one of the mothers who lost a daughter in the shootings, Lori Alhadeff, said that more time needs to be created for police to get to such emergency situations.
Flanagan said the In Force Technology helps to bridge the communication gap between schools and police. He said that during an active shooter situation, a teacher could use the app to type in a description of the shooter that could be sent to police and everyone else on the system quickly. He said such information could also help other people in the building know what type of action to take if the location of the shooter is known, such as barricading doors if they know the threat is nearby or evacuating the building if they are on the other side of the building.
At Stoneman Douglas High School, Flanagan said the shooter shot a person, went down a hallway and took a U-turn and then came back and shot that person nine more times. Flanagan said the victim was alive after being shot at first, so if he could have been stopped during that U-turn, the person’s life could have been saved.
Flanagan said they are in the deployment process for the In Force Technology in Somerset and will have it up and running in the next week or two. He said the technology is easy to use. Flanagan said during emergency situations, the gross motor skills of people are impacted, so they wanted to keep the operation of the app basic in order for it to have a positive result.
Flanagan said the In Force Technology and the company that sells it was launched in January of 2017. Fortunately, he said the technology has not been used in an active shooter situation yet.
“I’m glad it hasn’t, but it’s here if it has to be,” Flanagan said.
Flanagan has three young sons, who are ages 5, 3 and 19 months and a daughter on the way, so he said school security is in the forefront of his mind. He said there have been 18 school shootings since the beginning of 2018.
“The numbers are staggering,” Flanagan said. “Clearly, we have an issue.”
Somerset Police Chief George McNeil said he found out about the In Force Technology through a retired Braintree police chief who said he was representing a company with a product that could help reduce the response time for schools to communicate with police. Chief McNeil said he found out about the technology before the shootings in Parkland and the company did a presentation for the Somerset schools last summer. He said Somerset School Superintendent Jeffrey Schoonover decided he wanted to put the In Force Technology in all of the town’s schools at that time.
“We were way ahead of the curve on school security,” Chief McNeil said.
Chief McNeil said he knows Police Departments on the north shore of Massachusetts that use In Force Technology.
“We’re going to have the most up-to-date version of it,” Chief McNeil said.
Chief McNeil said the In Force Technology will be tested this week so that it can go online. He said all schools will have the technology, but it will be up to Schoonover and the principals to decide who will have the app on their phones. He said the app will probably be in every classroom. Chief McNeil said a fee that is similar to a licensing fee will be paid each year for the schools and the Police Department to have the technology. He said people who are given the app can be added or subtracted.
Chief McNeil said another retired police chief trained staff from the schools on how to use the In Force Technology a couple of weeks ago. He said the training will be done again and then refresher training will be done on a periodic basis, similar to CPR training, so that people do not forget how to work the technology the best they can.
Chief McNeil said he will have access to the In Force Technology app on his phone, as will his supervisors and the dispatch center. He said the app has been put in three of the Police Department’s cruisers and will be in all of the cruisers.
Chief McNeil said the technology will also show people who are using it at the time which police officers have been alerted of an emergency situation and who is on the way to a school. He said that information will not be transmitted over radio waves so people will not find out about it on their scanners.
Schoonover said the In Force Technology is meant to decrease response time from police for emergency situations and increase communication between the police and schools.
“The faster our emergency responders can get here, the safer we’d be,” Schoonover said.