For the first time since implementing the Active911 app as part of their school safety curriculum a few weeks before, Owensboro Public Schools put the program to use on Friday, Dec. 7. OPS received an alert notifying them that an individual, possibly carrying a weapon, had been located near Sutton and Foust Elementary Schools.
According to the Owensboro Police Department, the issue was quickly resolved and the students and staff at both elementary schools were “never in danger,” although they were placed under a “police procedure,” where people are not let in or out of the building as a protective measure until authorities give an all clear.
“There was no direct threat to any of the buildings,” said Jared Revlett, Public Information Officer for OPS. “The police were actively responding to a call near a building. If there’s police procedure in an area near one of our schools, we don’t let anyone in or out of the building.”
Revlett said the situation that occurred Friday was slightly exacerbated because it occurred during dismissal when parents were picking up students. However, the situation provided OPS an opportunity to test out the Active911 app they had recently implemented.
“There wasn’t anything that this was replacing — it’s more of an added layer of security,” Revlett said. “It was the first real-life situation where we got to use the Active911 app.”
Revlett said Active911 was set up across OPS by Owensboro-Daviess County Dispatch 911 Director Paul Nave.
“Essentially, we get alerts anytime a call is made to the police department involving a weapon, structure fire, among other things. We get all of those calls from all over the city, and you can pull them up on a map to see if they’re happening near you,” Revlett said.
Revlett used the hypothetical examples of a person carrying a weapon near one of the schools or breaking into cars near a school, explaining that if those things were to happen, the Owensboro Police Department would tell Revlett not to let anyone in or out of the buildings until said person was apprehended.
“If they’re relatively close to a school building, I can call central dispatch, get advice or information on the situation,” Revlett said, “and then OPS can make adjustments from there, or dispatch can make the decision for them.”
He said a more serious scenario, for example, would most likely require dispatch to immediately advise locking down the school(s) close to where an active situation was occurring. In other less serious situations, OPS could make a call after being advised by dispatch or OPD on how to proceed.
Daviess County Public Schools has been using Active911 for more than a year, according to DCPS Public Relations Coordinator Lora Wimsatt.
“This began with a strong partnership between DCPS and the Daviess County Sheriff’s Office, and conversations about our shared goals of ensuring that the children of Daviess County remain safe and secure in the event of emergency situations,” Wimsatt said.
Conversations with DCSO Sheriff Keith Cain and Nave allowed the DCPS district to partner with Active911 so that key administration would also receive immediate notification of certain situations through an app alert and text messages.
Wimsatt said the alerts could involve reports that revolve around weapons, gas leaks or structure fires.
“Every moment counts, and these early notifications have been very successful in giving us the opportunity to take steps to protect our students and schools until the situation is resolved, or until more information is made available to us,” Wimsatt said.
As for the Dec. 7 police activity that occurred near OPS schools last Friday, Revlett said the matter was resolved in less than 10 minutes, and the police procedure didn’t cause any serious issues for anyone involved. But the situation gave Revlett confidence in the app and its purpose.
“In reality, nothing happened,” Revlett said. “But it’s already proving to be effective as an extra layer of security.”