KASEY SILVIA – IN FORCE911 enables all employees to communicate directly with law enforcement during an emergency.
Greater New Bedford Regional Vocational Technical High School will soon have instantaneous, two-way access to local law enforcement thanks to the deployment of an advanced software tool that enables faculty, staff, and administrators to communicate directly with the local police department in the event of an emergency or security breach.
By partnering with Massachusetts-based In Force Technology LLC, the high school and the New Bedford Police Department will soon be equipped with the IN FORCE911 desktop and mobile software application. The software is proven to significantly reduce police response time to buildings and specific locations inside buildings during a critical event at a school while addressing the communications barrier that unfortunately exists during active shooter incidents.
It is a software tool that school officials, officers and the developers hope is never needed, however, the leadership of Greater New Bedford Regional Vocational Technical High School believes that this level of preparation and sophistication could provide a vital link between those inside a school building and those rushing to help when seconds count.
“Eliminating communication barriers between schools and local law enforcement is critical in the event of an emergency,” said In Force Technology CEO Brandon Flanagan. “Our software provides an immediate link to law enforcement that allows educators to contact them in seconds. It also has the potential to provide police with invaluable information, from the location of a suspect to the origin of the reported threat.”
The IN FORCE911 app empowers school staff with the ability to launch an alert in seconds from their desktop or mobile device, rather than minutes, with the current 911 system. Instead of waiting for calls to route through statewide or countywide dispatch systems, IN FORCE911 sends alerts and messages directly to the terminals and mobile devices of police officers in a specified area.
“We hope we never need to deploy the IN FORCE911 system, however, we must be realistic about potential school threats in the 21st century,” said James L. O’Brien, Supt./Director of Greater New Bedford Regional Vocational Technical High School.
“This system provides both GNBVT and the New Bedford Police with a valuable public safety tool that will connect our classroom teachers and staff directly with the police department, should the need ever arise.”
During an emergency, the alert is sent directly to the dispatch center, police cruisers and cell phones of officers with specific information, including the room of origin. It also opens a two-way chat dialogue, in real-time, allowing staff to communicate details of a threat or description of a suspect to first responders.
Additionally, first responders are provided access to floor plans, security camera feeds and other emergency information to help them plan the best response. IN FORCE911’s “Reverse Alert” feature also allows New Bedford law enforcement officials to immediately alert town and school officials of any imminent threats in their area, such as a police pursuit in progress, domestic custodial dispute, active robbery or severe weather alert. This eliminates the need for law enforcement to pick up the phone and call each building, in hopes they will lockdown.
“IN FORCE911 is a mechanism that will expedite police response to a critical event, to maximize the opportunity to preserve life,” said Chief of New Bedford Police, Joseph Cordeiro.
The software will be installed in all schools this winter, and educators will be trained accordingly. The software is also being installed at the New Bedford Police Department, where local police will also be trained to handle the new technology.
IN FORCE911 is used by hundreds of communities nationwide, including deployment in dozens of communities in New England.
By implementing the IN FORCE911 school safety software throughout its school and local law enforcement, Greater New Bedford Regional Vocational Technical High School leadership hope to empower school faculty, staff, and students, while working to save lives during an act of violence. Countless law enforcement training courses all teach the same lesson: time equals lives and every second counts during an emergency or active shooter incident.
NEW BEDFORD, Mass. (WPRI) — A New Bedford school is turning to technology to improve the safety of students and staff.
Greater New Bedford Regional Vocational Technical High School will soon start utilizing an app that puts teachers and administrators in direct contact with police in the event of an emergency.
The school is the first in the area to launch the security software. By partnering with Massachusetts-based In Force Technology, LLC, both the school and the New Bedford Police Department will be equipped with the IN FORCE911 desktop and mobile app.
Superintendent James O’Brien said given recent incidents at schools across the nation, safety is a top priority.
“Greater New Bedford Vo-Tech is not immune to society’s woes. [The app] is another tool to make schools safe for kids today,” he said. “How can a student learn if a student doesn’t feel safe within their school?”
The app allows school staffers to alert law enforcement while communicating in real-time with first responders and other staff members throughout the building. It also gives first responders access to floor plans and security camera feeds.
“If I hear gunshots and that teacher notifies police they are in room B153, then police know that’s where they have to go,” IT Director Maciel Paise explained. “If they find out the intruder is on the other side of the building, they will be in contact with the teacher so they know if it’s OK to leave the room. This is really the future.”
By establishing a two-way, real-time chat portal and significantly reducing police response time, the goal of the software is to ultimately save lives.
The school’s staff will be trained on the software and it is expected to launch in February.
Violence affects a significant proportion of our population, threatening the lives of millions. Aside from death, significant consequences of non‐fatal violence are injuries, disabilities, mental health and behavioral issues, reproductive and other health-based problems, as well as the overlying impact of violence on our social fabric.
While it affects people everywhere, those living in low and middle‐income regions are at a substantially greater risk to experience multiple forms of violence, and by no surprise, over 90% of violent deaths occur here. What’s shocking, is if you research where mass school shootings are most likely to occur, you will be directed to small-town and suburban America, not to low- or middle-income communities experiencing the highest violence rates.
These small-town communities are seemingly idyllic places to grow up. Typically, they have low crime rates, good school systems and a sense of community where everyone seems to know your name. The phenomenon of these areas becoming targeted acts of violence is due to a variety of factors that include easy access to guns and the copycat effect of disturbed suburban and small-town teenagers emulating each other. Active shooting violence is also blamed on the pressures of living in small towns that make it harder for disgruntled teenagers to adjust. “In small-town America, it’s said everybody knows everybody, and that’s well and good except when you don’t want everybody to know what’s going on with you,” said James Alan Fox, a professor at Northeastern University who has been studying mass shootings for decades. “If things are going downhill for you, you did something wrong or someone did something wrong to you and some girl dumps you, everybody knows. So, it is much harder to get away from it. Experts say its attributes like these that cause small rural and suburban towns to be a breeding ground for the next school shooter.
In Force Technology, Inc prioritizes its efforts around rural school districts who make up (28.4% of the total school population and receive 45% grant funds with 26% spending on services like IFT).
Since the beginning of 2021 and as of April 20th there were over 150 mass shooting events according to Gun Violence Archive – an independent data collection and research group with no affiliation with any advocacy organization that monitors and records incidents from over 7,500 law enforcement, media, government and commercial sources daily in an effort to provide near-real time data about the results of gun violence.
The psychological, emotional and social health ramifications associated with the pandemic lockdowns have been significant and will take years to measure. Numerous studies have attempted to gauge the well-being of various age groups, with the most dramatic impact on children and young adults, who are more likely to develop PTSD, anxiety, depression and other symptoms of distress. According to Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, from April through November of 2020 there was a 35% increase in children who needed mental health assistance compared to 2019 and an uptick in suicide attempts as well.
Unfortunately, social distancing and heightened security measures have negatively affected relationships among people as well as their perception of empathy toward others. According to L1ght, an organization that monitors online harassment and hate speech, cyberbullying has increased 70% over the past few months. The emotional and physical abuse children endure can result in emotional trauma and often lead to disruptive behaviors in school, including bullying, aggression and risk-seeking behaviors.
And history has shown that these above factors combined with family dysfunction, lack of supervision, access to firearms and mental illness has been the catalyst for countess acts of school violence in the past.
Our nation’s schools should be safe havens for teaching and learning, free of crime and violence. In Force Technology’s mission is simple and clear, we want to protect kids and school staff members by providing them with the ability to quickly notify and clearly communicate with law enforcement and first responders in the event of an emergency. With access to building schematics, safety procedures or any other pertinent information, so school staff will be empowered to make better decisions during such an extreme act of violence.
Schools are an important part of the infrastructure of our communities, as they provide a safe and supportive learning environment for students, employ teachers and staff, and enable parents, guardians, and caregivers to work. The CDC states that schools also help to mitigate health disparities by providing critical services including school meal programs and facilitate student’s access to social, physical, behavioral, and mental health services. Many students are either missing or have had interruptions in these services due to school building closures and virtual and hybrid learning.
As our previous blogs and articles have stated, these interruptions in conjunction with the social and emotional impact of the pandemic is leaving our children with unresolved issues and anxiety which leads them to act out and act inappropriately. As schools are set to reopen, administrators and educators will be faced with one of the most challenging years to date. Biden has been steadfast, that his goal is to have the majority of K-8 schools physically reopened five days a week, by the end of his first 100 days in office as the U.S. grapples with the coronavirus pandemic.
Since schools and local businesses have been shut down or negatively impacted by the effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic, financial burdens have forced budgets to be re-allocated and resources once available for our communities and specifically our schools have been eliminated. The CDC states that for schools to operate safely for in-person learning, communities should fully implement and adhere to mitigation strategies to reduce COVID-19 incidence and make decisions that prioritize safely opening schools for in-person learning over nonessential businesses and activities. Additionally, to reduce the risk of transmission in schools, educational facilities should fully implement and strictly adhere to recommended layered mitigation strategies, especially universal and correct masking and physical distancing. With the economic strains and cost to mitigate transmission effectively, what financial tools are there for administrators to reopen while providing a safe learning environment for staff and students?
The day of Biden’s inauguration, he announced his American Rescue Plan which will provide $130B to help K-12 schools reopen safely and support students. This is a very important step for all of us in the school safety and emergency response community, but by no means is it enough. The trickle-down effect from businesses closing, reduced community spending (and fewer taxes being collected as a result) and in addition to a significant rise in pandemic related expenses school have undertaken (PPE, plexiglass, sanitizer, gloves, sprays, testing etc…) which has caused any remaining educational budgets to be squeezed or eliminated.
Thankfully, $13.2B of the CARES Act, was allotted to the Education Stabilization Fund earlier in 2020. The Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (CRRSA) of 2021 provides an additional $54.3B towards the second round of ESSER funding (Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief) (See Exhibit 1 for qualifying states).
In addition to the previously mentioned funding sources, there is also the Students, Teachers, and Officers Preventing School Violence Act of 2018 (STOP School Violence Act of 2018) which gave the COPS Office authority to provide awards directly to states, units of local government, or Indian tribes to improve security at schools and on school grounds in the jurisdiction of the grantee through evidence-based school safety program. There are various funding opportunities listed on their website as well: https://bja.ojp.gov/funding/current, several that existing IFT customers have used to help offset the cost of implementing IN FORCE911 district wide. In Force Technology is committed to protecting what matters most, because saving time during an emergency directly correlates to saving lives. We offer grant consultations and support our community partners however we can. Please reach out to discuss funding and partnership options!
Almost two months ago, prior to the inauguration, we saw the Capitol building become a crime scene. U.S News reports that over the course of a “5-hour rampage” security at the Capitol building was breached, Capitol Police evacuated the Senate and House of Representatives chambers, while several buildings in the Capitol complex were also evacuated, and all others were locked down. Rioters occupied and ransacked the empty Senate chamber while federal law enforcement officers drew handguns to defend the evacuated House floor.
Security officials at the U.S. Capitol blamed communication failures between intelligence agencies and law enforcement for the security failures during the insurrection. We now know the FBI issued an internal warning about the threat of violent extremists planning for war the day before the Capitol attack, however, U.S. Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund said the extent of that threat was never properly communicated to law enforcement. As a result, 5 people lost their lives and 140 were injured. NPR reports, over $30M in damages to the building and grounds resulted because of this siege.
People shelter in the House gallery as protesters try to break into the House Chamber at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Acting Chief Yogananda Pittman says the lack of clear communication between the FBI, Capitol Police and local Law Enforcement was a “multi-tiered failure.” To say that we are shocked to hear there is a lack of interoperability between responding agencies (Capitol Police, Local Metro, FBI, ATF etc.) would be misleading. The Department of Homeland Security defines interoperability as the ability of emergency response agencies to talk to one another via communication systems—to exchange voice and/or data with one another on demand, in real time, when needed, and as authorized. In fact, this type of miscommunication often occurs inter-agency and intra-agency and as seen in this case between the government branches, FBI, State and local responders. “The focus going forward needs to be on the efforts to improve intelligence and the coordination of security measures between all involved agencies,” said former U.S. Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund.
Communication and information sharing between various departments, agencies and staff is vital for the prevention, elimination and containment of active threats. “The events of January 6 was a stark reminder that institutional biases, priorities and actions taken out of sync with actionable data resulted in poor decisions,” Brett Blanton said. “If we do not learn from these mistakes, the campus will continue to remain vulnerable to unknown and unexpected threats.”
Try to put yourself in the shoes of those inside the House Chamber. People were hiding behind chairs and walls and had no idea what was happening outside. Some used their phones to capture images, videos and sounds of the events as they were unfolding. With no way for anyone to communicate with officers and first responders, they didn’t know how to respond, and even if they had called 911, where would that call have been routed to? Would it be answered by Capitol Police Dispatcher? What if their officers didn’t have the same information as the FBI or another agency? There is so much uncertainty and frustration that could have been avoided by simply having a communication tool in their hands.
IN FORCE911 for example, would have allowed House members to connect directly with one another (inside and outside of the room) and with law enforcement in seconds, bypassing 911 and getting necessary information from the responding agency.
An important principle that can be applied to crisis communications such as the Capitol riots, is the concept of making intelligent choices when it comes to response. Being provided with situational awareness, clear intelligence and real-time, two-way communication would have benefited those at the Capitol to resolve some of the issues.
Although, this past Sunday was Valentine’s Day, a typical day to celebrate happiness and love, many individuals, couples, parents and families honored and remembered the lives lost at the Parkland School shooting instead. They spent the day saddened by the occurrences at Marjory Stoneman Douglass high school in 2018, hoping and praying that no one else will ever be faced with the devastation, loss of life and other long-lasting impacts that a school shooting has on a community.
We recently spoke with Dr. Joe Erardi, school safety and security consultant and former superintendent who led the recovery, rebuilding and re-opening of Sandy Hook, post tragedy. He stated, how important (it is) to recognize that public secondary schools with-out the pandemic create anxious students, staff and parents. He explained that if you layer the pandemic on top of that, you have anxiety and the unknown at a level no one has ever experienced. He continued stating that “anxiety leads to bad behavior, and off-centered behavior and leads young adults to really bad spaces.” This year has been like no other, “we have all seen defiance across the country, sadly with celebration. For kids that want to fall into that lane, have had the opportunity to watch and learn. Coming out of the pandemic, everyone needs to have a laser focus on student and school safety” Dr. Erardi points out.
As we reflect on school shootings, such as Parkland FL, we studied the average number of days between these events in the United States from 2015 and 2018, and the result are devastating, a mere 77 days. There were 9 shootings in 2018, the highest number in the 20-years since 1999. When schools closed in-person learning and went fully remote due to COVID-19 March 2020 was the first March without a school shooting in the US since 2002, but since then, there were 37 incidents across the United States where someone sustained an injury or death as a result of a school shootings.
When it comes to how children are exposed to gun violence, gunfire at schools is just the tip of the iceberg– every year, nearly 2,900 children and teens are shot and killed and nearly 15,600 more are shot and injured. An estimated 3 million American children are exposed to shootings per year. Witnessing shootings — whether in schools, communities or homes has a devastating impact.
We recently spoke with Chief, Joseph Cordiero of the New Bedford Police Department who stated, “most folks are concerned with what’s going on with the pandemic right now. They’re not thinking about the long-term effects”. His advice to parents is that they “take a vigilant, proactive role with their children”. Children exposed to violence, crime, and abuse are more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol; suffer from depression, anxiety, and ; fail or have difficulties in school; and engage in criminal activity.  Deputy Jimmy Shelton agrees that the social and emotional impact of the pandemic, will be front and center when kids go back to school. Even though incidents for 2020 are lower due to lockdowns, he said it “doesn’t mean school shootings are going to stop, mass shootings are not going to stop.”
Alyssa’s Law is legislation addressing the issue of law enforcement response time when a life-threatening emergency occurs. Most people think 911 is the fastest and most efficient way to notify and communicate with local police officers when help is needed, but the problem is that 911 is over 50 years old and it takes an average of 5-8 minutes to reach proper response team.
Alyssa’s law began when Lori Alhadeff pushed for a better way for teachers and school staff to notify and communicate with law enforcement, after her daughter, Alyssa, tragically lost her life in the shooting at Marjory Stoneham Douglass High School, in Parkland FL
The Miami Herald transcribed radio dispatches from the Parkland shooting where Officer Scot Peterson (SRO) said at 2:23 during the shooting, “Be advised we have possible, could be firecrackers. I think we have shots fired; possible shots fired —1200 building.” And second later, Peterson radioed: “We’re talking about the 1200 building it’s going to be the building off Holmberg Road Get the school locked down, gentlemen!” At 2:25, he radioed that “We also heard it’s by, inside the 1200.”  Unfortunately, officer Peterson was the only person on site with the capability of communicating directly with law enforcement personnel. Since he didn’t have clear information about the situation, other officers didn’t know what to expect, where to go, and how to proceed once they arrived. With a lack of situational details, and critical information necessary to make informed decisions, they formed a perimeter outside of the school and waited. As a result, 17 people lost their lives.
“Alyssa’s Law calls for the installation of silent panic alarms that are directly linked to law enforcement, so in the case of any emergency, they will get on scene as quickly as possible, taken down a threat and triage any victims”
IN FORCE911 was launched with one simple premise: to save lives.
It is an easy-to-use mobile panic button with two life-saving components. First, it reduces police response time to a critical situation to as little as 4 seconds. Secondly, IN FORCE911 bridges the communications gap by providing a real-time, two-way chat between responding law enforcement and those experiencing the threat. Having a solution in the palm of your hand that notifies others of an emergency and helps you communicate details of the situation is invaluable. Lori Alhadeff advocates for Alyssa’s law, so that no other parent, teacher or student has to experience what her daughter or the 16 others experienced. Three years later, she has successfully enacted Alyssa’s law in Florida and New Jersey and has filed for it to be passed in New York, Nebraska and Arizona. There are several parameters to this law requiring compliance for private, public and charter schools (see below).
|Alyssa’s Law Requirements||IN FORCE911 Features|
|Integrates a mobile panic alerting system||IN FORCE911 is a mobile panic button and communication platform designed to save lives.|
|Ensures real-time coordination between multiple first responding agencies||IN FORCE911 enables streamline communication and coordination via mutual aid agreements and provides the highest level of interoperability between agencies at the municipal, county, state and federal level. IN FORCE911 is FIPS 140-2 and CJIS-5 compliant for the highest standard of encryption and security as well as the ability to run natively on law enforcement devices. This means that officers will receive and send information from any device- (cell phones, in-vehicle computers and dispatch simultaneously) reducing their response time to the school.|
|Easily customized per district or charter school||IN FORCE911 is easily customized to each school building within a district to ensure flexibility and ease of use. Credentialed users include substitute teachers, SRO’s, administrators, faculty and any additional building or district staff.|
|Provides two-way communication||IN FORCE911 provides in real-time, a two-way communication window, time/date stamp, specific building locations, user identifications and color-coded messaging. Talk-to-text, texting and typing options all available for sharing information.|
|Provides administrators access to provide campus or facility information through the system||IN FORCE911 has a backend portal for admin to upload EOP and SRP documents and training materials and it will be visible to users in the IN FORCE911 app.|
By deploying IN FORCE911 district wide we will increase school safety and provide an easy to use, reliable, mobile panic button and communication platform for staff and faculty. The goal is to create a safer, more secure environment for teachers to teach, students to learn and employees to work.
The mission of IN FORCE911 is simple – to save lives!
Before we get into what makes a system effective, we must understand the difference between Emergency Notification and Emergency Communication Systems. An Emergency Notification System (ENS) delivers critical information in one direction while Emergency Communication Systems (ECS) are capable of initiating and receiving information (two-way) between both individuals and groups of individuals.  Why do we emphasize the difference? Because the difference results in how many lives are saved.
Clear communication is important for emergency managers and involved parties, to fully prepare and respond in a timely manner. It is the key to effective mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery. Two-way communication during an emergency situation is commonly designed to convey information over multiple types of devices, from signal lights to text messaging, to live streaming video, forming a unified interaction system intended to optimize communications during emergencies. IN FORCE911 is both a notification and communication platform in the form of a mobile panic button designed to save lives.
There were 67 incidents of gun fire on school grounds in 2020 , while most of the country experienced a lockdown and were learning remotely. Just imagine what might happen when everyone is back in school? It is so unfortunate that we recognize names as Sandy Hook, Columbine and Parkland for the unfortunate reason, that they were all mass shootings and innocent lives were taken.
Take a step back and think if you were a teacher in the building at Sandy Hook and never received any notification of an armed intruder entering your building. A gunman walked through the front window after shooting through the glass and the person near the front hid under the desk and couldn’t communicate with others in the building.
At Columbine, a teacher had no way of knowing that while the killer was in the auditorium, that they could have safely run out of the other side of the building taken their class with them. Officers and SWAT teams remained outside throughout the entire shooting and until after the gunmen had killed themselves, before finally entering the building. They had no communication from inside the school as to where the shooter was, who it was, how many there were, what they were wearing, what the weapons were, and could not communicate with the teachers and staff inside the building. In this case, if IN FORCE911 was in place, a notification could have come from a staff member to others and to law enforcement simultaneously in the form of an SMS text or app notification. Without having a two-way communication stream, no one else could share what they saw, what they heard or what to do. Two- way communication, would have given law enforcement the critical details about the shooters and the event as it unfolded. Once the threat had ended, it would have enabled communication from responders with others in the building to triage medial need, start evacuations and begin reunifying students with their family members. The quicker responders can engage with an active threat, the greater chance for survivability. The Department of Justice found that during incidents like these, law enforcement intervention is the primary mitigating factor to ending active shooting incidents. Notifying first responders of a crisis is the first step in reducing response time to that threat. Communicating details of who, what, and where the threat is, is next, so once they arrive at the building, they know what to look for and how best to prepare to save lives. IN FORCE911 provides the ability for staff, faculty and law enforcement to notify and communicate in real-time effectively during an active threat situation.
 Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emergency_communication_system
Why we must be worried about kids returning to schools and about how well are our schools equipped to respond to crisis events?
The psychological, emotional and social health ramifications associated with the pandemic lockdowns have been significant and will take years to measure. Numerous studies have attempted to gauge the well-being of various age groups, with the most dramatic impact on children and young adults, who are more likely to develop PTSD, anxiety, depression and other symptoms of distress.
Unfortunately, the social distancing and heightened security measures have negatively affected relationships among people and their perception of empathy toward others. In general, parents are observing emotional and behavioral changes in their children and detecting symptoms and side effects as to difficulty concentrating, irritability, nervousness, sense of loneliness and uneasiness, just to name a few.
Remote work and online education, which became increasingly common due to quarantine, have led to an increase in domestic violence. Contributing factors include economic stress, disaster-related instability, exploitive relationships and reduced support options. Many students missing out or no longer have access to the critical mental-health services which were available to those in need before pandemic. The emotional and physical abuse these children endure can result in emotional trauma and cause psychological barriers to learning and often disruptive behaviors in schools, including bullying, aggression and risk-seeking behaviors. According to L1ght, an organization that monitors online harassment and hate speech, cyberbullying has increased 70% over the past few month.
We may not yet fully understand the pandemic’s long-term effects on our children, but we can surely make a connection with the motives and factors behind violence at schools and the cause of school shootings. Unfortunately, history has shown that factors such as bullying, persecution and revenge combined with family dysfunction, lack of supervision, access to firearms and mental illness has been the catalyst for countess acts of school violence. This notion is disturbing, overwhelming and scary, because history proves such events will occur and we must proactively address these issues and be prepared for the worst.
By way of introduction, Critical Communications, (in the event of an active threat) relies on the ability to accommodate various requests, utilize multiple services, handle various speeds, and manage required capacities while maintaining various levels of security. “Almost all assessments of the September 11th attack have concluded that U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies had failed to share information that might have provided advance warning of the plot. This realization led Congress to approve provisions in the USA Patriot Act (P.L. 107-56) and subsequent legislation that removed barriers of information sharing between intelligence and law enforcement agencies and mandated exchanges of information relating to terrorist threats”. Still to this day, however, an existence of technology within our law enforcement communities, giving officers and command staff access to real-time, accurate information is lacking. Additionally, the fast-paced, critical nature of Emergency Management requires the ability to access and share information efficiently and effectively; however, what seems to be a simple process, is quite complex because of challenges that agencies are faced with.
Communication gaps arise when responders need to access data and effectively share information across organizations. These gaps are associated with preliminary information collection, information sharing, and dissemination, situation awareness and knowledge transfer. First responders should have communications interoperability nationally, at minimum regionally, and without question territorially, whereby public safety agencies (e.g., police, fire, emergency medical services) and service agencies (e.g., public works, transportation, hospitals) can communicate within and across agencies and jurisdictions in real time as needed. PNNL researchers broke interoperability issues down into two sub-gaps: Data Access and Organizational Information Sharing.
Data access is the ability to retrieve the right information about the situation and it is essential for an effective response and risk mitigation. Effective information collection and sharing has been a historic challenge in many arenas, and for Emergency Management personnel to make accurate and timely decisions, they must have as much information about the situation. For their own safety, any chance of heightening situational awareness as they approach the threat yields the best outcome.
Organizational Information Sharing often presents as a gap in communications when first responders are in situations where their awareness is diminished due to a lack of knowledge that the information exists; not knowing who controls the information; and/or the inability to access the information or having access but in a format that is not understandable. Personnel also frequently find that information is not shared across organizations and between mutual aid agencies. This leads to confusion on information relevance; role ambiguity; decision making with limited information, expertise, resources, and time; and the ability to coordinate decision making. There is no doubt, “coordination is complicated… from federal to local” … Governor Tom Ridge once called attention to the seriousness of the issue of overlap and coordination among agencies. In discussing communication, the National Academies Press states: “There is no more important and pressing concern with respect to the effectiveness of response.” Effective knowledge transfer is critical for operations of magnitude and requires a streamlined approach and implementation for a successful resolution.
A perfect example showing the value of critical communications arose last year in a small New Hampshire town, involving a school and a multitude of responding police departments. Providing background, prior to adopting IN FORCE911, if a New Hampshire school staff member called 9-1-1, the call gets routed through a centralized State dispatch, then routed to the next closest municipal agency for response. This process causes a delay (National Average is 2-4 minutes) from the time the call comes in, to when officers begin response. The second issue with using legacy 9-1-1, is that phonelines would be flooded after 15 callers called into the State dispatch at once. If you happened to be at the emergency site, and were caller 16, a busy sound would be on the end of your phone call, rather than a dispatcher. In this case, some type of redundancy or multi-agency notification would solve both issues.
Luckily, the school and multiple responding agencies had adopted IN FORCE911 (deployed across all of their devices) so that once the threat was perceived, the school staff member sent the alert out to everyone in that building, and also to the local PD, Sheriff’s Office, Department of Homeland Security and the NH State Police simultaneously. This instantaneous notification strategy was successful and prompted the fastest response possible (with no delay or multi-layers to provide information to), and provided a clear and consistent communication stream, between these mutually aided agencies and within the building under threat with proper identification of rank and command. All officers, commanders and dispatchers were alerted and could communicate back and forth on their cell phones, in the MDTs/MDCs, and at the dispatch consoles regardless of their jurisdiction, agency, or duty status. Second to this, they all could have had access to building schematics, maps, photos, IP Camera feeds, protocols, utility shutoff information in the palm of their hand or by a simple touch on the screen. Providing that information to all responders means that officers unaware of the building layout, campus location or specified details, were given immediate access (to all of it) instantaneously upon initiation of the alert. IN FORCE911 proved the necessity for interoperability and provided a streamlined operational approach for all parties involved, consistent and clear information from staff to law enforcement and vice versa, direct and clear communication between agencies, promoted officer safety and heightened situational awareness for all.
As it turns out, the situation was benign, but imagine if it wasn’t? If an active shooter walked into that school, and the witness could not get through to 9-1-1 how would that have ended? Imagine that same witness had to wait on the phone until the dispatcher walked through all the information before acting on their trainings, or the police officer down the street was unaware of what was going on? At this point, a multitude of factors become most important during an active threat response and should never take a backseat for immediate resolution.
Implementing or deploying IN FORCE911 enhances response efforts by bridging these gaps in communication, therefore mitigating any confusion or chaos linked to the response efforts thus preventing further loss of life. Challenges that can be alleviated using IN FORCE911 are: lack of real time mission critical information sharing, inability of officers and agencies to communicate among themselves and across jurisdictions, and the risk of officer safety during targeted violence incidents.
Many law enforcement agencies from across the U.S. have already adopted IN FORCE911 for a real-time threat alert and communication software solution that instantaneously provides an alert and enables a two-way chat (talk to text, typing or texting) directly to dispatchers across their consoles, to patrol vehicles and to officer’s smart phones simultaneously. “Technologies available now include real-time chat features to share updates quicky”, keep conversations going and capture data which in turn enhances communication strategies, provides mission critical information, empowers better decision making and predominately enhances situational awareness of responders. IN FORCE911, is CJIS-5 and FIPS 140-2 compliant (runs native on all law enforcement devices and complies with the FBI standard for encryption and security) and provides multiple responding agencies with access to a clear communication channel (delineated by rank and location) and consistent information sharing of digitized building schematics, floor plans, evacuation routes, utility shut offs, IP camera feeds and other pertinent details of the location under threat to maximize the effectiveness of response. This provides the incident commanders with the ability to coordinate a unified approach to ending the threat as quickly and efficiently as possible.
Once the threat has been contained, communication throughout the response and reunification process needs to continue so leaders of an organization and first responders can account for personnel, provide medical triage, design, and conduct evacuations, provide transportation off site and to determine areas for on or off site hot, warm or cold zones, points for reunifications and to clear the site upon neutralization of the threat.
Another benefit of IN FORCE911 used as a tool in critical communications for when an alert needs to be sent from an officer outside of a school or municipality to staff residing inside a particular building or series of buildings in a geo-targeted area.
The following used cases stem from two small towns in the South East where officers were able to notify buildings potentially threatened by a situation, but other officers, dispatch and commanders in the jurisdiction as well. An officer on duty was driving through town and noticed a family of black bears roaming on the outskirts of a wooded area on the edge of a school campus. The officer recognized that the safety of children, teachers and SRO would be at risk if they were to enjoy the fresh air during recess. The officer sent a reverse alert notifying staff and administration not to release students outside after lunch.
A second incident took place in North Carolina where a bank robbery took place and police were in pursuit of the suspect. Dispatch was able to send the reverse alert and directly communicate effectively and immediately with several school officials and SROs in the area, prompting them to lock in without causing panic or alarm to the staff and students. Although both incidents were not immediately life threatening, without the quick action of both officers and an effective method for communication, both situations could have resulted with a very different outcome.
When an incident requiring ‘all hands-on deck’ occurs, we cannot settle for communication gaps to take place. IN FORCE911 is easier and faster to use than ever before, putting the power of communication in the hands of first responders when seconds matter most.
 CSR Report (Order Code 33873) for Congress Feb 13, 2007
Needless to say, the past year has been difficult for everyone. At the top of the list, those most negatively affected by the COVID-19 Pandemic, are the first responders. They battle every day on the front lines, protecting citizens from out-of-control protests, religious and political harassment, and then of course, from the pandemic effecting millions of people in a multitude of ways. Dr. John Violanti said it best, “Policing is an essential occupation to preserve the rule of law and those whose serve deserve proper protection from the strain associated with this task”. First responders are setting aside their beliefs and well-being to fulfill their job requirements as they risk their physical safety and mental status for others. Meanwhile, police agencies are being defunded, SRO’s are being removed from schools, and the overall respect and backing of the blue is at an all-time low.
Before reviewing the information presented about IN FORCE911, please understand that the technology is quite easily obtained, implemented at a low cost, and could be instituted at a wide variety of locations; schools, churches, town or city buildings, county offices, warehouses, and hospitals in conjunction with first responding agencies at the municipal, state and/or county level regardless of size, location or existing technology and platforms being used. IN FORCE911 is a technology exists with both FIPS 140-2 compliance (the FBI standard for encryption and security) as well as CJIS-5 compliance, to run natively across all law enforcement devices (MDT’s and MDC’s) and natively with all CAD and other dispatch console programs to provide interoperability and consistency of information sharing across agencies. The IN FORCE911 platform is hosted and stored securely in the Microsoft Azure cloud where an uptime of over 99.9% is guaranteed. Given all that is happening in our world today, an easily deployable and scalable technology like this should be prioritized to keep officer safety top of mind.
Over the past few years an increase in natural disasters, acts of violence and terrorism have increased significantly and in addition, with departmental budget cuts and personnel reductions there is an increased need for enhancements to be made for first responder safety in any given community. Much like preventing and responding to an incident, taking preventative measures to maintain the proper health and safety of first responders is crucial. The goal in this article is to highlight how officer safety on a tactical level can be and should be a priority, since responders serving their communities are battling to protect others, but equally as important, battling to protect themselves.
One of the first tactical issues officers are faced with when responding to an emergency is that transferring information from a PSAP or centralized dispatch to a local agency using legacy 9-1-1 systems, causes delays for the responding agency to initiate response efforts. In addition to collecting the information often more than once, the information provided can be unclear and difficult to disseminate across multiple responding agencies at once. The principal challenges to safety here, are (one) a lack of information presented to officers (and two) information presented in a timely manner, as they typically are being asked to respond with limited information or resources. Thirdly, the failure of communications, particularly related to technology interoperability, (between police and firefighters, as well as between mutually aided law enforcement agencies) responding to dangerous situations has resulted in death or injury to themselves or those they strive to protect. In essence, communication gaps during any life threatening emergency (especially those requiring an ‘all hands on deck’ response) would set responders up to fail before they’ve even arrived on scene. Following this chain of thought: The more information officers are provided with, the better decisions about resolving the emergency they can make. Better decisions reduce risk, less risk leads to an increase in confidence, greater confidence also reduces fear, anguish, and anxiety, saving more lives during the incident and reduces the overall adverse mental impact after action on responders.
IN FORCE911 can alert and notify all officers regardless of duty status, location, agency or jurisdiction, prompting a more rapid and cohesive response and thus effectively ending emergencies faster and more efficiently while reducing the negative impact on officer’s mental health. Within the last five years, technologies have been focused on two-way communication between responders and a building under threat to streamline response efforts. Mission critical details are shared, yielding an exact location of a threat (GPS enablement), identification of who sent the alert, and even images of the assailant. Simultaneous intelligence sharing between the building under threat with officers, dispatch and the PSAP enables not only a successful deployment of personnel and equipment, but also heightened situational awareness of officers as they approach and enter a building. In many past instances, responders have not been adequately or properly equipped to confront the challenges with which they were faced. No longer is there a need for responders to ‘walk in blind’ or be confused of who, what and where a potential threat is. Heightening situational awareness and communication strategies of responders means that once the threat is eliminated, that reunification, medical triage, evacuations and clearing of the building can happen in a more controlled and systematic manner. In theory, these factors should reduce chaos, stress, tension and lessen the distress and anguish often associated with traumatic events. Secondly, knowing that the intelligence sharing between a building under threat and between officers of varying agencies is significantly greater with newer technologies, responders are provided with a higher degree of comfort as they approach a situation, trusting that the information they have is accurate and clear. They can better mentally and physically prepare to put their lives on the line and enhance their chances of survivability.
Frequently, when multiple agencies are involved in a major event, emergency personnel cannot communicate well with one other due to a lack of interoperability between agencies. Even different organizations in the same jurisdiction have different means of communication. These agencies can be paid or volunteer, fire or police departments, where the law enforcement entities could include urban police departments; sheriff departments; regional FBI; and federal agencies at the federal, state, county, and local town or city level among others. Enhancing communications both inter and intra-agency, eliminates command and control confusion as well, promoting and encouraging a higher level of teamwork, collaboration, and interoperability between agencies which fosters a more expeditious response to resolve any emergency as successfully as possible.
Since communication is only effective when there is a consistent method for how/why/when it is used and there is no liaison or policy in place with how multi-agency communications will flow, using a an interoperable platform like IN FORCE911 that functions in real time, would reduce if not eliminate these problems as they arise. This platform is also device agnostic, meaning that notifications and communications can be sent and received (two-way) on all devices regardless of their operating system and connectivity (Wi-Fi, Ethernet, and Cell Data). IN FORCE911 is APP based for Android and Apple phones, and software based for desktops, MDTs/MDCs and for dispatch consoles. With a rise in the capabilities that this technology has available today and knowing that it can provide communication and information sharing as a key to success, why aren’t more agencies providing officers with the modern tools they need to improve their level of safety during emergencies? Why are we relying on legacy 9-1-1 infrastructure when these men and women are risking their mental health and even their lives so save others?