New program aims to improve response times in school emergencies

Updated: Oct. 22, 2019 at 1:09 PM CDT
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - A new program aims to improve mass communication between Alabama law enforcement in an effort to increase school safety.

The Alabama State Department of Education partnered with the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency and the company nSide to roll out the program called AEASE. The program will allow for city, county and state law enforcement to receive and access information from schools more quickly in cases of emergencies.

The CEO of nSide, Dr. Steven McKinney, said most schools already have a notification and emergency system in place. He said this new program will have access to those systems across the state so necessary law enforcement are in the loop.

Secretary of the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, Hal Taylor, said it usually takes time to manually contact all law enforcement in the area during an emergency.

“The dispatcher will maybe need to switch channels or go over to another frequency to talk to those other police officers that might be in the area,” he said.

Taylor said this new system would contact law enforcement like a trooper immediately who could reach a school minutes before other local officers.

For rural areas, the seconds of time saved contacting law enforcement can be incredibly important.

The average school shooting in the United States lasts 12.5 minutes, while the average police response time is 18 minutes, according to the National Sheriffs’ Association.

“Alabama is a very rural state in many ways and so many of our schools are 20 or 30 minutes away from the closest law enforcement agency," Mackey said.

Mackey said efforts like this help make sure law enforcement can be on the scene.

In August of 2019, six teens were shot at the end of a high school football game in Mobile. The FBI said there were 27 active shooter incidents in 2018.

The AEASE program also created a statewide system where people and schools can submit tips to law enforcement. State law enforcement would have the ability to review the tips more quickly if the school districts sent the tip their way.

The AEASE program will not cost public schools a dime, according to McKinney. He said the state received a $550,000 grant from the state legislature in the 2018 legislative session. He said the program will cost ALSDE $60,000 annually.

McKinney said the program has been rolled out in one third of Alabama schools. He anticipates it will be fully implemented for the upcoming school year.

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