On Wednesday, March 16, North Alabama officials from law enforcement, government, and education gathered at the Holiday Inn in Athens to hear a presentation made by a firm who has found a way to shave minutes off response times to situations such as bomb threats, active shooter situations, fires, natural disasters and other life threatening events. These have unfortunately become a part of the American experience in the 21st century, as we well know. UAH had a horrific deadly event six years ago, and since then there have been threats, injuries, and deaths perpetrated by adults and students alike in several Tennessee Valley educational institutions.
Those of us in the Athens Limestone area have been made uncomfortable on multiple occasions in the last two school years when we have received Nixle updates on our phones telling us that yet another school has had to be evacuated due to a bomb threat. Thankfully, each threat has proven to be false, and our first responders have done well with each incident. But what if there were a way that could significantly reduce the time it takes for our protectors to get there, accurately assess the situation, and communicate better with everyone involved in real time, all for the relative cost of the proceeds from your average school bake sale?
There is, and it is called Brandon CopSync. Prior to the presentation, I had the chance to hear about it in the office of Jim Doyle, who runs the Madison Security Group located on Hwy 31 right next to Rooster’s. Jim hails from Boston, and has extensive law enforcement experience, most of which occurred in Massachusetts. It was through Jim’s contacts in the Northeast that he was able to bring the opportunity to learn how software can save lives of students to our local officials. In addition to Jim, I spoke with Brandon Flanagan and Joseph Cerretani from Danvers, MA.
“Basically, it gets the good guys on the scene faster,” Brandon told me. It does so through software synced with a secure app on a designated smart phone, and with a double click, CopSync immediately alerts law enforcement. Through the additional use of GPS, the officers who are closest to the call can arrive much more quickly, and the alert is made without tipping off the perpetrator(s). It also creates 2 way communication on the ground, “alleviates “the lack of real-time mission critical information sharing among officers and agencies at the point of incident, the inability of officers and agencies to communicate in real time across jurisdictional boundaries, as well as the risks to officer safety and unsatisfactory response time in incidents of targeted school violence.”
Joe told me that the “software is proprietary”, and he is “100% confident that there are no competitors.” OK, but does it work? The answer is yes. Recently in Boston there were two bomb threats in which Brandon Cop Sync was used, and the reduction in response time was measurable in minutes. This easily translates over into the possibility of saving lives and resolving incidents satisfactorily.
One of the things that can be daunting in a bomb threat is all that goes on in what is known as the egress process. As Mayor Ronnie and Chief Johnson noted after the Athens Middle School bomb threat, “Egress was a nightmare.” This was true for a number of reasons, including the location and the design of the school, the surrounding buildings, and traffic patterns.
In a more normal situation, there is a fairly standard sequence of events. First, students and faculty have to get to a safe place out of harm’s way. Then, every square inch of a school has to be checked for the presence of perpetrators, kids, and/or teachers who are holed up in hiding, bombs in back packs, possible IEDs, injuries, subsequent or follow on incidents, and finally, deaths. On average, it takes six hours from the time the threat emerges to the “all clear” status. “CopSync shortens the window of the aftermath,” they told me.
Joe said further, “It helps to reach back into a school during an incident by giving law enforcement officers better options.” And, if there were any chance that there were several planned events occurring in more than one place, other jurisdictions would also be immediately notified.
“If something happens in Athens, Decatur would know it and be able to respond better,” Jim said. He added, “It makes for much more fluent communication.” Another thing that all three of them wanted to make sure people understand is that Brandon CopSync “is not taking over the job of law enforcement officers. It enhances their ability to do their job.” It is their understandable hope that we as a community will see CopSync added to our first responders’ IT arsenal, and successfully layer in an extra level of protection for our most precious resource, our kids.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner