NEWBURYPORT (Heather Alterisio) — The school district is gearing up to hold a trial run of In Force 911, a two-way communication app that alerts authorities of emergencies in 12 seconds or less.
“We are going to be piloting this program this spring, and we will probably end up adopting it,” Superintendent Sean Gallagher told the School Committee at its meeting Tuesday night in the Rupert A. Nock Middle School library.
“As we all know with any type of emergency, response time is the key,” he said. Whether it is a medical emergency, fire, weather issue or a possible intruder on school property, Gallagher hopes using a program such as In Force 911 will provide faculty and staff with peace of mind.
In Force 911, founded in 2018, is a real-time threat alert and notification software, allowing school personnel to communicate with local police and fire departments in the event of an emergency.
It takes an average of two to four minutes for the dispatch to inform police officers of an emergency and about 12.5 minutes for officers to respond, according to the software’s website.
With this software, police and fire personnel could be alerted of a situation in 12 seconds or less, according to the Lynnfield-based company.
The app can be downloaded onto any device and with the click of a button, an alert with an exact location can be sent to local police.
“It just seems like a no-brainer,” Gallagher said of possibly implementing the program.
Dispatchers and responding officers receive the alert, along with building-specific details to provide them with a person’s exact location.
“Every teacher and principal would have it on any device — their phone, their computer — and if there’s an emergency, they end up hitting the app and hitting the button,” Gallagher said, adding that users have 12 seconds to retract the alert if they somehow clicked on it by mistake.
The app also allows a two-way chat for school personnel to communicate directly with law enforcement. The chat is a livestream to which everyone involved would have access. Alerts could also be shared with everyone in the building through a mass notification system.
“The person who issued the alert doesn’t have to communicate,” Gallagher said, acknowledging that someone sending the alert may not be in a situation to actively communicate.
The program’s cost would be split by the district and Newburyport Police Department, Gallagher said. No cost figures were given at the meeting.
Also during the meeting, the School Committee voted unanimously to keep with tradition in naming valedictorians and salutatorians, but to seek a new process for selecting speakers at graduation.
The committee approved a first reading of the proposal Dec. 16, but its rules require policy changes to have two readings before they can be adopted.
This was first official business meeting for Sheila Reardon Spaulding, who was sworn in as a School Committee member Jan. 6.