JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — As Missouri lawmakers debate a bevy of school safety bills — from hiring guards to implementing greater surveillance — some are hoping legislators will take a look at an app already being used in the state.
The app, Guard911, creates a network between administrators, students, staff, and law enforcement. The school using the app would have a “gatekeeper,” usually the principal or another administrator, who would decide who in the school would have access to the app, effectively granting them a panic button and direct line to the police. Locations on the school campus would be mapped out via a geofence, giving responders a way to navigate the area. The app would also send alerts and emergency plans to all users on the property.
The main objective is to get the first officers on the scene faster than would normally happen through the traditional dispatch system. On- and off-duty police personnel in the area are notified during an emergency through a companion app called Hero911. This would give them a layout of the area via the geofences, granting them situational awareness and allowing a faster response from a small group of officers ahead of the traditional dispatch system. The app is available for schools, colleges, businesses, and other public places that could feasibly become at risk for an active shooter situation.
The system was formed in 2013 by Nate McVicker, a veteran police officer and father of three. Having responded to thousands of emergency situations over his career, he set out to create a more effective and faster way to see a response to the armed intruder situation.
“It all comes down to what’s become an epidemic in this country. With active shooters in our schools, it’s no longer a question of if, but when,” McVicker told The Missouri Times.
The Guard911 system is active in 24 schools in Missouri, as well as the St. Francois County Annex Building and Courthouse. And the app is used by almost 1,000 locations across 37 states thus far.
The Hero911 app is used by 1,772 officers in Missouri and approximately 60,000 officers nationwide; it is the only app of its kind available that alerts authorities on a state, federal, and local level.
McVicker has been in talks with Missouri legislators to notify and educate them about the app.
“This starts with understanding the viable threat to our schools and children and embracing technology,” he said. “It would only take about three months to ensure all schools in Missouri are successfully signed onto this program”
The state legislature is considering several pieces of legislation related to school safety, including:
- HB 1318, sponsored by Republican Rep. Sommer, would allow schools to install safety cameras on school busses.
- HB 1961, sponsored by Republican Rep. Nick Schroer, would establish the “Keep Our Schools Safe Act,” aimed at requiring school districts to employ at least one “School Protection Officer.”
- HB 2373, sponsored by Democratic Rep. LaKeySha Bosley, which funds after school programs focused on reducing gun violence.
- SB 1025, sponsored by Republican Sen. Emery, would establish educational scholarships for students who have experienced school safety issues.
A school safety task force, led by Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe, released a bevy of recommendations in August, which included training staff in youth mental health issues and employing armed officers at schools.
You can read more about Guard911 here.