App Used to Help Communicate During School Emergencies

The aftermath of a chaotic school emergency can leave communities searching for ways to stay in the loop as future events unfold. To keep individuals informed and safe, some schools rely on the use of security apps.

Mike Robison, an Orange County businessman, said seeing the emotions on display in the wake of the Saugus High School shooting validated the reason he made the app. He developed the app to keep parents informed during school emergencies and allow them to track their children.

"They have no idea what’s going on. They have no idea where their kids are, they have no idea if their kids are safe," Robison said. "Just seeing them reuniting tears your heart out."

Robison and his wife conceptualized the School Security First app, which can be used to notify an entire school campus or school staff only of emergency events. For example, during a shooting, the app can be used to update users of the intruder’s whereabouts if they change location.

"If you’re a student or personnel inside of a classroom and the alarm goes off, you’ll know exactly where [the intruder] is," Robison said. "So when you’re leaving the building, you’re not going near that location."

Once an all clear signal is given, the GPS on students’ phones allow their parents to see where they are located within a distance of five feet.

The School Security First app launched in June. Robison said the app is not designed to stop emergencies from occurring, but to make it easier for those involved to communicate.

However, some school officials expressed ambivalence toward security apps. Ryan Burris, Chief Communications Officer at the Capistrano Unified School District, said it is important for students not to be distracted by their devices and to pay attention to their surroundings.

"We don’t want them focused on their phones, and that seems to be the biggest concern," Burris said. "We want situational awareness for them. What’s going on around you, not what’s going on on the phone."

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