Guest Post: A Social Protection Network is Born

by Brian Estes

It was a year ago today that I dropped off my two children at school and was driving down Main Street in my small town, a community much like Newtown, Connecticut.  I remember the first breaking reports interrupting the financial news I was listening to on CNBC in my car.  As the detailed reports from Sandy Hook Elementary started to flood in, my heart began to ache and the tears rolled uncontrollably down my face.  As a 6’4”, 220-pound man known as Mr. McGruff by my 14-year-old daughter, I was not prepared for these types of emotions.  I felt so much sadness for the 20 small children and the 6 school staff members who were murdered, and an overwhelming empathy for the families who lost loved ones.  Like all Americans, I felt helpless and knew something needed to change.

Fast forward six months: I received a call from one of my friends, Nate McVicker, an Illinois State Trooper who has spent countless hours off duty, conducting research and training on active shooters.  Together we envisioned an idea of a mobile social protection network comprised of ON and OFF duty law enforcement officers.  We agreed to partner up and build a mobile app platform so teachers could report school shootings directly to the closest law enforcement officers, thereby advising them before the 911 dispatch is made.

With the help of technical expert Tom Swip and retired Illinois State Police Colonel Mike Snyders, we began to build what is known today as the Hero911 Network.  Because this network would have the capability to alert all federal, state, and local law enforcement officers both ON and OFF duty (most off-duty officers carry their weapon), this would dramatically increase the number of potential responders and substantially reduce their response time.  This is how the Hero911 “Social Protection” Network and SchoolGuard “Teacher” apps were born.

Hero911 Network™ (iOS, Android Free) (www.hero911.org)

This is a free app and is exclusively for active law enforcement officers from all jurisdictions and for retired officers who complete annual certification training to carry their weapon.  The app requires applicants to submit their credentials and/or official government work email.  Official police officers vet the activation requests and will approve or deny them within 24-48 hours.  If the requests are approved, the Hero911 app will sit dormant on their phone and will only alert officers if they are in close proximity of a school shooting reported from the SchoolGuard system.  If alerted, officers will use their department’s response protocol and training if in a position to respond to the active shooting emergency.

SchoolGuard™ (www.schoolguard.com)

In January of 2014, this free app for teachers and other school staff will launch nationwide.  The SchoolGuard app is composed of a response plan button, a Principal Push™ “Blast” messaging system and three emergency “panic” buttons (911 Only, Teacher Assist, and Report School Shooting & Call 911).  The main feature of SchoolGuard is the “Report School Shooting & Call 911” button.  When this button is pressed, and then confirmed (to prevent inadvertent activations), the teacher’s phone automatically speed dials 911. This instantly sends a school shooting alert to all other school staff, neighboring schools with the SchoolGuard service, and simultaneously sends an alert directly to the smartphones of nearby law enforcement officers, whether ON or OFF duty, from ALL jurisdictions who have joined the Hero911 “Social Protection” Network.  The app also provides a mapped location of the initial alert so everyone contacted will have situational awareness.

To control the use of the SchoolGuard app on school grounds, the principal will provide the authorization codes to the appropriate school staff members.  The app only works while on school grounds and if the school subscribes to the SchoolGuard service for $99 per month.  For a school of 600 students, it would cost about $2 a year per student (a penny a school day) to place a panic button in the hands of every school staff member.

Do you want to help save lives?  Our country needs you!

If you know any law enforcement officers, tell them about the free Hero911 app.  Ask them, “Do you want to know if you are in close proximity to an active school shooting emergency whether you are ON or OFF duty?”

If you are a parent, teacher, or simply a concerned citizen of your community, tell your local superintendent and school board members about www.SchoolGuard.com.  Ask them to consider activating the service.  SchoolGuard will build an electronic geo-fence around your community’s school and will able to alert all ON and OFF duty law enforcement officers from all jurisdictions who have joined the Hero911 “Social Protection” Network.

We might never be able to prevent these extreme acts of violence from occurring, but we must employ a means to reduce police response time, so that your school is not the next one to fall victim to this kind of tragedy.