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A new law enforcement communication service became available to schools this week to ensure safety on school campuses.
COPsync911 is a system that allows any person who has access to a school computer to send a silent threat alert to nearby law enforcement officers, bypassing the central 9-1-1 dispatch center. The system was originally built for the law enforcement community, to alert fellow officers of danger nearby. But as schools around the country try to figure out how to prevent school shootings like the one at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, the founders of COPsync decided to apply their technology towards school safety.
Currently, 200 schools in Texas have committed to using the service. It costs $3.33 per day, a cost that COPsync CEO Ron Woessen says is very affordable, compared to hiring a School Resource Officer for each campus in a district.
Youth Radio’s Bria Bryant interviewed Woessen about how the system would work in schools.
Bryant: In the wake of Sandy Hook, we’ve seen a lot of schools in the Bay Area practice lockdown drills regularly. Will COPsync will eliminate the need for schools to do this so often?
Woessen: No, it won’t. In fact, COPsync will become part of the school’s emergency preparedness. When schools practice their lockdown drills, we envision the schools practicing using COPsync911. The lockdown actually creates a problem for law enforcement, that is mitigated by COPsync service. When the school is locked down, that means that the doors are locked, there’s no opportunity to enter. Police officers are precluded from entering as well. With COPsync911, our service provides officers with a map — a diagram of the school — so they know where to go when they arrive on the scene. And furthermore, the school will be able to indicate on that map which doors are available to officers to enter.
Bryant: In your opinion, how will this change the way schools and police are able to communicate?
Woessen: The system eliminates the inherent delay that occurs when a 9-1-1 call is placed to the 9-1-1 dispatch center. On average it takes about five to seven minutes for the 9-1-1 dispatch center to receive the information and communicate it via radio to the responding units. Because the COPSync911 threat alert service goes directly to the patrol cars, that delay is eliminated. That time savings is critical in emergency situations because minutes and seconds count.
In addition to sending these emergency alerts directly to the patrol officers, the system also sends a text alert message to any person that the school has identified that they want to receive that alert. So the cell phone numbers of all the teachers in the school, as well as some members from the law enforcement community, for example, the local police chief or the sheriff, might want to receive a text alert.
Bryant: Can students activate the system or just teachers?
Woessen: The ideal situation is that only teachers are the ones to activate the system. Now — this is a matter of training — you could have a scenario where there is an unattended computer and a mischievous student might take advantage and send a false alarm. But in the right circumstance, it could be available to be used by anyone who has access to the computer.