The Coral Springs Police Department is located in the City of Coral Springs, Florida. On February 14, 2018, officers from the agency were among those who responded to the active shooter event at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, 3 miles away from the department, in which a gunman killed 14 students and three staff members at the school.
Officers responding to the 911 call experienced many shortfalls in communications. Arriving at the school, some officers did not know whether the shooter was still on the premises, or if there was more than one shooter involved. Once inside the building, they did not have any information about where the injured individuals were located. Upon discovering that they did not have proper radio service, some officers were forced to resort to yelling from floor to floor in order to communicate between themselves. At the same time, school officials watching video feeds of the school hallways did not realize that because school surveillance video was on a delay, they were actually viewing footage from several minutes earlier rather than in real time, giving them false information about what was happening at that moment.
All of these issues contributed to the chaotic nature of the response, and undoubtedly exacerbated the severity of the incident, leading to more lives being lost. Recognizing the need for a better method of informing, communicating and alerting during an incident, Coral Springs was receptive to learning about the new technology being made available through School Safety Grant. “February 14, 2018 was the day that changed the communities of Parkland and Coral Springs forever”, said Clyde Parry, Chief of Police for the Coral Springs Police Department. “That was the day when an unthinkable act of violence shattered the tranquility of our peaceful community. Since that day, our city’s focus, and our police department’s focus, has been to make schools as safe as possible.”
Through a grant from School Safety Grant, the ALERT software was installed at the Coral Springs Real-Time Crime Center. ALERT gives first responders a single control platform enabling them to view camera feeds in real time, along with maps and images of the physical environment (both from outside and inside the facility). Using the software, the Center can also control door locks and the fire alarm systems, and use the PA systems to speak directly to the assailant and others at the scene. The ALERT software provides the communications connections between the system at the Coral Springs Police Department and the systems installed at the Coral Springs Charter School and the Chabad of Coral Springs, both of which were also awarded grants from School Safety Grant. “With the ALERT program, we’re immediately notified of an emergency or a serious incident,” said Chief Parry.
“Video feeds allow us to view the incident in real time and provide instant, more importantly, accurate intelligence to the officers that are responding to that incident.” Inside the Real-Time Crime Center, the ALERT overview map shows all the assets or sites around the city that are in partnership with the program. When a panic button is alerted at the Charter School or Chabad, either via the app or via a hard-wired panic button, it starts to set off strobes and alarms in the facility, while simultaneously alerting staff of the emergency. Coral Springs’ trained personnel get an overview of the site and can see where the emergency is in real time. Map icons provide law enforcement officers with up-to-date information. By scrolling over one of the camera icons, they can see a camera and its view in real time. It is easy to quickly and easily circle through the different cameras on the site, enabling officers to see information in real time, while also following a potential suspect or other piece of information throughout the site.
By clicking on one of the door icons, the user can remotely unlock doors, allowing first responders to enter the closest door to the suspect without worrying about the need to find an open entrance. They can pull up a multi-view of cameras by clicking the load layouts button. Selecting a camera and right-clicking locates the camera on the map. Inside each room, a right-click pulls up a still panoramic shot providing information about the interior of this site. This is important because it helps to direct law enforcement personnel directly to the need, and it also allows personnel to have an inside view of each classroom or storage room. Through the existing PA system in the school, trained dispatchers can speak directly to the suspect, to the students, and to the faculties and officers on site. There is also a text-to-speech option, enabling fast translation of PA messages to students and other individuals in the building. “Collectively, these features provide officers and other first responders with a critical improvement in the information that they receive, helping them to respond in the most efficient and effective manner possible when seconds matter most,” said Alexander Falcone, Director of Emergency Management and City of Security for the City of Coral Springs.