Sandwich director of facilities James McGrail, director of technology Bryce Harper, School Resource Officer Christa Cabral, and dispatcher Joshua Himelrick test In Force 911, a new software program that allows schools to quickly alert the police to violent situations on campus.
The teachers in all of Sandwich’s classrooms have been trained on how to use a program that will directly connect them to the police department in the event of a dire security emergency, such as a gunman in one of the schools.
The program, In Force911, will soon be loaded onto the cell phones and computers of every staff member in the district. In the event of an emergency that would warrant a heavy police response, a staff member will be able to alert police with the tap of an app.
When the app icon is touched, not only is the staff member connected directly to police dispatch, but an emergency alert is also sent to all patrol units as well as to every computer in the affected building. District administrators are also alerted.
Responders will be able to connect to video feeds at the schools and see in real time what the situation is in the building. Both the Forestdale School and the Oak Ridge School currently have that digital camera capability. Sandwich High School and the STEM Academy have analog cameras that police are not able to access remotely.
Director of facilities James P. McGrail said that the district plans to make a funding request in order to pay for new cameras in the high school building, including the STEM wing.
Mr. McGrail said that he and director of technology Bryce Harper have trained all staff members in the district not only on how to use the program, but also on when to use it. For example, a medical emergency like a student having a seizure would not be an appropriate use. An armed intruder or students in a knife fight would be.
“If you feel that you need five fully armed police officers by your side, use this,” said In Force Technology president Brandon D. Flanagan.
Mr. McGrail said that the response to the program being activated will be first and foremost a police presence, rather than a paramedic one. He said it is to be used if there is a physical threat to someone in the building.
Additionally, the program can be used in reverse. For example, if there were a car crash that required a medical helicopter landing at the Forestdale field, an alert could be sent to school administration so that they can let parents know what is going on outside the school.
Superintendent Pamela A. Gould said that had the program been ready to go, a good time to use it would have been the recent tornado warning.
“I was out of the district when that happened,” she said, adding that she was not alerted right away. If the program had been ready, the opportunity would have been available to alert her with the push of a button.
While they hope that the technology never has to be used, they are glad for the peace of mind that the program brings. If they need to use it, it is the fastest way to connect to police.
Mr. Flanagan said that the company compared the time it took to connect with a dispatcher by using the program and by calling 9-1-1. He said that dialing 9-1-1 ultimately took about four minutes longer than using the program.
In an active shooter situation, every second matters, he said.
“This technology gives the advantage of time and information,” Mr. Flanagan said. “It can definitely save lives.”
Mr. Flanagan said that In Force Technology was founded by people with a background in security in January. The Parkland school shooting, which happened just a month later, strengthened the company’s resolve to create the program.
The company was ultimately invited to Parkland at the request of the mother of one of the students who had been killed. Lori Alhadeff lost her daughter, Alyssa Alhadeff, in the shooting.
“Simply put, we want to make a difference,” Mr. Flanagan said. “We created a technology that will save lives, God forbid we ever have to use it.”
Mr. Flanagan said that Sandwich is the first district on Cape Cod to partner with the company and that they are also in talks with the Dennis-Yarmouth Regional School District.
Mr. McGrail tested the program with the police department on Tuesday, December 4. He said that the testing went well. The next step will be to start using the technology during lockdown drills at the schools. He said that they will start those drills in early January so that students and teachers will have had experience with the new technology.
The use of the program is one of several safety and security updates that the district has made within the past few months. In addition to this, all of the classroom door locks at Forestdale and Oak Ridge have been replaced; a new key fob access system has been installed for teachers to have better exterior access that can be monitored by the district; and security windows have been installed in the elementary schools so that visitors can be better vetted before entering the building.