Phone app puts school security in educators' hands
David Corr has a job he wished he never had.
“I think it is a great job, but it is unfortunate we have a job like this,” Corr said.
Corr, who works for the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs, spends his days traveling the state of Washington to visit the 295 school districts.
During his visits he trains principals, teachers and administrators on what to do if a gunman comes on their campus.
“Nobody wants to believe an active shooter is going to happen in their community, but that is our reality,” Corr said.
Since the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in 2012 when 20 kids and six adults were shot and killed, there have been nearly 290 school shootings across the country.
In Western Washington, five students were shot and four died when a gunman opened fire at Marysville-Pilchuck High School on October 24, 2014.
“It is tough to have those conversation with staff, but when things start happening closer to you like Marysville you have to be ready, “said Casey Stookey, Assistant Principal at Pacific Cascade Middle School.
That is why Stookey and several other educators from Issaquah School District gathered for a training session with Corr in early October to learn about the latest tool that fits in the palm of their hands to keep their schools safe.
Last year, WASPC rolled out phone app called “Easy Alert” that allows school districts to quickly communicate with first responders in case of an emergency.
If there is a shooting and a school goes into lockdown, staff can activate the app which sends a direct alert to law enforcement, fire fighters, local dispatch and other emergency crews.
The app contains directions to the school, evacuation routes, access codes to security cameras, alarm codes, utility shutoffs, and most importantly maps and layouts of the campus.
“All of sudden we hear a shooter is on first floor, room 131. Perfect, I hit floor one, there is my floor plan it is quick. It is easy,” Corr explained to the classroom. “So, if we can get a one to two-minute jump on an incident that is huge especially when the typical active shooter situation last only four to seven minutes.”
The app is extension of the Washington’s School Mapping program that the Legislature passed in 2003. The program maps every school in the state, and provides crisis plans in case of a school emergency.
The “Easy Alert” app is latest evolution of the mapping program that includes pre-planned tactical information inputted by local authorities.
“We work with law enforcement to predetermine where to set up incident command, where to set up staging areas for SWAT teams and fire fighters, where to put road blocks, media staging, and where we are going to have family reunification,” Corr said
So far, the app has been successful helping schools report everything from drug possession and bullying.
In December of 2017, the app was activated when a gunman shot and wounded students off campus at Graham-Kapowsin High School.
The app was credited for helping law enforcement quickly contain the crime scene and communicate with school administrators while their campus was in lockdown.
But getting every school district trained is a challenge. In September of 2017, when a gunman killed a student and shot three others at Freeman High School in Rockford, the staff had not been fully trained to use the app.
Staff at Issaquah School District hope they never face a worst-case scenario, but they believe they now have a better idea what to do.
“It could happen. And I don’t want to be in a situation, and a lot of my colleagues feel the same way, I don’t want to be in a place where I am not prepared,” Stookey said.