New app adopted to enhance school security

Pulaski County Schools, along with county law enforcement agencies, are adopting a threat notification system meant to reduce response time to violent situations within the school system.

In Force911 is the name of this new “cloud-based” software application (app). It is designed to allow teachers and staff within the school to notify law enforcement agencies of a threat by utilizing their mobile phones, tablets or laptop computers.

If there is a school shooter, for example, in a matter of seconds the state police, the sheriff’s department and town police will receive an alert on their mobile devises and in car computers notifying them of a violent situation in the school.

“The biggest advantage for us and the school system is the ability to have the information quicker,” said Major Daniel Johnson of the Pulaski County Sheriff’s Office. “You can imagine an incident occurring at one of our schools and you’ve got 100 people trying to use the cellphone to contact our 911 center. It eventually gets to the point where you override your cell capabilities and you can’t even get the information out. Having more real time data and information is probably the biggest advantage to this.”

The IN FORCE911 app works in a manner similar to a text message that goes directly to everyone using the system. It also allows for back and forth messaging between those within the school, as well as those responding to an emergency situation. Even law enforcement personnel who are off duty would receive this notification via their cell phones.

“Everybody has that same information,” said Johnson. “So if you have a state police unit on his way back from court and he gets that alert, he may be right there in the area and could respond immediately. Whereas if he’s waiting on radio traffic, that radio traffic may never get to him because he’s on a different channel and may never even know the situation is unfolding.

IN FORCE911 is a Boston based software company that has already implemented this system in Amherst and Northampton counties in Virginia. The company is currently working to implement the system in counties in North Carolina, Florida, West Virginia as well as various localities in New England.

“I’ll be honest with you, in some of the other places we work, there’s the old mantra of ‘It could never happen here’ but in the case of Pulaski, that doesn’t exist,” said IN FORCE911 CEO Brandon Flanagan. “They recognize these threats are unfortunately realistic and they want to be as proactive and preemptive with their security measures as much as possible. The leadership there, from the sheriff to the major, to the superintendent Dr. Siers in particular have demonstrated their commitment to school safety.”

School safety has been a much-discussed topic in Pulaski County, as it had been and will continue to be throughout the country. Pulaski County School Superintendent Dr. Kevin Siers initiated the search for an improved response time from law enforcement and is satisfied that the app will improve school safety.

“We are very happy to be moving forward with all of the local law enforcement agencies to bring IN FORCE911 to Pulaski County Public Schools,” Siers stated. “We believe that the addition of this program helps us address our goals to improve school security and expand communication efficiency in the event that an emergency situation occurs.”

Each agency participaing in this emergency notification system pays a fee to IN FORCE911. Law enforcement agencies including the state police, Pulaski Sheriff’s Department and the town police of Dublin and Pulaski will pay about $600 annualy to be a part of IN FORCE911. Each school also pays a fee to be in the system. In total, the Pulaski County School system will pay $17,000 annually to implement the IN FORCE911 notification app. This money will come from the school system’s general fund.

By the start of this upcoming school year, all schools and law enforcement agenies should be a part of the IN FORCE911 cloud-based notification system.