Columbia schools testing newly developed safety app

Mike Snyders speaks to school officials Tuesday about the newly launched SchoolGuard and Hero911 apps at Parkview Elementary in Columbia. (Robyn Dexter photo)

In an effort to reduce police response time during “active shooter” school shootings, developers of a new application for mobile devices explained their product during a demonstration in Columbia.

Columbia Assistant Superintendent Beth Horner said the school district was asked by developers of the SchoolGuard app, who live in Columbia, to help test out the system as a pilot.

In a two-part presentation Tuesday afternoon that took place at The Falls and at Parkview Elementary, developers of the app revealed and demonstrated what the app will be like when made publicly available.

Nate McVicker, co-founder of this new app, gave a presentation at The Falls introducing the concept and what the future might look like.

“We realize the problem out here and that the problem is not going away,” McVicker said. “An active shooter is our country’s number one domestic act of terrorism.”

In light of all the school shootings that have happened over the past several years, along with another one in the books Tuesday morning in New Mexico, McVicker stressed the importance of police being able to respond to a shooter as soon as possible.

The founders of this SchoolGuard app stress that seconds save lives.

The app allows a large network of police officers to be alerted if they are anywhere near an active shooter situation, along with features that allow teachers to alert other teachers and school district employees of compromising situations.

It uses features such as a GPS locator and quick dial to 911 to cut valuable seconds off the time it typically takes to alert the appropriate channels of a shooter situation.

Because of a “geo-fence” that allows teachers to only access the emergency system in the perimeter of a registered school building, the second part of the presentation was moved to Parkview Elementary, where former Illinois State Trooper Colonel Mike Snyders performed a demonstration of how the app would work.

Comparing the app use to a reenactment of the Sandy Hook shooting in Dec. 2012, several seconds were shaved off the response time.

Currently, developers of the app are trying to involve as many law enforcement officers as possible and register them for Hero911, which forms a network of officers that could respond to shooter situations.

Columbia School Superintendent Dr. Gina Segobiano called Columbia “the test pilot” for the app, and said they would stay updated on the release of the app and look into it more when it becomes available.

Horner agreed that the app and the idea of it is extremely important to securing schools in the future.

“It’s a great concept,” Horner said. “Response time is critical when you are dealing with these types of situations. Anything that keeps our schools secure is helpful.”

Columbia school officials stressed that they have not yet implemented this system and are merely testing it for the developers at this point.

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