AP NEWS

Yale students develop ‘active shooter’ alert app

May 6, 2019

It took three and a half minutes for faculty and students at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., to learn there was an active shooter in their school.

Four Yale University students feel their mobile alert app can drastically reduce response time during similar emergencies.

“We realized there that schools really have a communication problem internally but also externally,” said Michael Chime who developed the app “Prepared” with fellow classmates Daniel James, Neal Soni and Dylan Gleicher to alert students and faculty members during school shootings.

International reports described 2018 as the worst year in the United States regarding gun violence in schools, and the Parkland shooting was at the center of it. Data from Education Week, a journal covering education in the U.S., found that there were 24 school shootings that resulted in 114 injuries or deaths.

The mobile application lets faculty respond almost instantly to an active shooting incident using their phones to connect with students and first responders.

Chime said most of the features on the app are the result of feedback from local schools, and a case study he and his team conducted on the Parkland school shooting.

Approved users can send a lockdown notification to the entire school and local law enforcement through the program by pressing and holding an “active shooter” button for three seconds which sends out an Amber-alert-style message.

The program also lets users provide information on the emergency through a messaging feature, including location and description of the suspected shooter.

“That streamlined response will be communicated with the authorities at the press of a button,” Chime said, touting a 15-second alert time.

A newly added feature also notifies school district officials, who can then can send emergency messages to nearby schools.

“We’re able to ensure that the security of the schools surrounding (the emergency) are in thought as well,” Chime said.

The app has already received a favorable review at Yale, according to Chime, who said the university has invested roughly $40,000 into the startup, including the Miller Prize for $25,000.

The quartet will also spend their summer in an accelerator program where they will continue to develop the application and work with school districts nationwide to implement it.

They’ve reached out to school districts in Connecticut and other states, including Louisiana and Ohio, where James and Chime are from respectively.

Chime said they’ve been in contact with local law enforcement as well.

Another app developer said he saw the undergraduates’ startup as a valuable tool for the school system.

“I think that’s potentially powerful for sure,” said Ben Berkowitz, CEO and Founder of SeeClickFix, a New Haven-based web and mobile platform that allows users to communicate with local government about public works issues.

His company, which has been around for a decade, has about 350 city partners that use the application and website as a primary means of taking public service requests about potholes, graffiti or illegal dumping.

Jordan.grice@hearstmediact.com