By Don Del Rosso – FauquierNOW
The new system allows teachers and other staff members to instantly alert police of an “active shooter” or other school emergency.
“If there’s a problem, this software lets us know exactly where the problem is,” sheriff’s office Capt. H. Ray Acors said in an interview. “It’s no more going through the dispatcher and then out to the deputies.”
The new “threat-alert” system directly links schools to local patrol cars and Fauquier’s 9-1-1 dispatch center.
That kind of access to sheriff’s and Warrenton police cruisers during school emergencies should reduce response times and potentially save lives, sheriff’s Sgt. James Hartman said.
“It’s huge,” Sgt. Hartman said. “Seconds can make a big difference.”
The system went “live” Wednesday, the first day of Fauquier public school classes.
The sheriff’s office, school administrators and town officials unveiled the system Tuesday on the front steps of Fauquier High.
Massachusetts-based COPsync Inc. developed the software.
No other county in Northern Virginia has such a system, according to Sgt. Hartman.
The sheriff’s office, the public school system, Highland School in Warrenton, Wakefield School near The Plains and the Town of Warrenton have purchased the software.
Via any computer or smartphone loaded with the software, educators and law enforcement officials can exchange real time information about a school crisis, Sgt. Hartman explained.
School staffers can send an alert by clicking on a police-shield shape icon at the bottom of a computer screen.
Police cruisers have laptop computers. When an alert gets sent, they can access a variety of information, including a map to the school and a floorplan that shows building entrances and pinpoints the emergency.
“It alerts everybody in the building there’s a problem,” Sgt. Hartman said. “You need to lock that (classroom) door and do whatever the school procedures say” until help arrives.
A user can cancel an accidental alert by clicking the computer’s “cancel” button within 15 seconds of notification.
The software also has been installed in about 70 deputies’ smart phones, laptops in county and town cruisers and hundreds of computers at Fauquier’s 20 public schools.
School Superintendent David Jeck called the program “another tool to ensure the safety of our students and staff.”
COPsync’s fee includes training, licensing, technical support and software upgrades.
The school division this year paid $24,000 – or $1,200 per school – for the program.
An anonymous donor has agreed to cover the sheriff’s office costs for three years, according to Sgt. Hartman.
First-year expenses for the sheriff’s office will run about $4,800. But, the annual fee will vary based on the number of deputies using the software, Capt. Acors said.
After the third year, the program cost will be included in his office’s annual budget, according to Sheriff Bob Mosier.
The town’s system cost $900.
Highland and Wakefield representatives couldn’t be reached for comment about their program costs.
“This is a huge move forward,” said Councilwoman Sunny Reynolds (At-Large).
“Amazing,” said Councilman Bob Kravetz (Ward 4). “I like the fact that we’re entering the 22nd century, and the fact that we’re ahead of the other jurisdictions.”
The sheriff’s office and school officials began discussing ways to speed communication after an “active shooter” drill in 2015.
To launch that drill, a cell phone call to the county dispatch center failed three times.