Within a few minutes of the reported active shooter at Westfield Garden State Plaza in Paramus, NJ on November 4, 2013, our phones were ringing and messages were being received. (Read story here)
"Does Garden State Plaza use Share911?"
"Can Share911 be used at a mall? It seems like it could help."
"How could Share911 help all of these police officers find the shooter?"
All great questions and we thought we would take a moment to explain how we believe Share911 can help in these emergencies.
First, Share911 was developed for exactly these types of situations at a High Occupancy Location (HOL). Garden State Plaza is 2,118,718 sq ft and is the 15th largest mall in the United States. We enable the people who work at that location to use their mobile device or computers to share real-time information with First Responders from wherever they are.
At approximately 9:00 PM, a 20-year-old male party entered the mall and fired at least six rounds from a .22-caliber assault-style rifle. While many shoppers self-evacuated, many others ended up seeking cover and locking down in the 300 stores that make up the shopping center.
Police have a single mission in these instances, find the active shooter as quickly as possible an mitigate the threat. Hundreds of police officers responded to Garden State Plaza and began to search for the shooter. He would later be found dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound at 3:20 AM, nearly 6 hours later, in a remote area of the building.
How could Share911 have helped in this incident and others like it?
By enabling the employees of the shopping center to Check-In using Share911 on their mobile devices or computers in their stores, they can provide police with real-time situational awareness about what they see, where they are and if they see the shooter. They can also report how many people are with them, if anyone is injured or unaccounted for. They can then use Share911 to monitor what is happening around them via LiveView, so they too can benefit from the real-time situational awareness.
Police can monitor LiveView in the command post, on in-vehicle computers or on their own mobile devices, such as iPhones, to see what the employees are sharing in real-time.
Unlike social media platforms such as Twitter, Share911 is a private and secure eco-system, connecting only the employees and the authorized police and First Responders together, reducing noise and information that is not mission critical.
Share911 has proven itself in schools nationwide, where teachers and school employees can now share real-time information with Police and First Responders during school safety incidents of any kind.
"What happened before was that you had employees in a lockdown situation sitting in silence and waiting for help to arrive" says Erik Endress, CEO of OnScene Technologies, which makes Share911. "Those people are not blind, they can be the eyes and ears for the police and First Responders who are on the scene. Malls are no different, you have hundreds, perhaps thousands of store employees in the building, if you give them a way to share mission critical information they will share it, because it may save their life."
As a company that sells a product to schools, we are often "visitors". In some schools, we find doors unlocked and open, letting us and a potential threat enter unfettered. In the majority of schools, we are greeted by a locked door and an intercom, where we state our business prior to gaining access. After entering the building, we usually fill out a visitor log and get a badge which must be worn at all times.
Recently, we visited Ramsey High School in Ramsey, NJ where this experience was a little different and we think its a great idea worth sharing.
Once we were cleared by the schools electronic Visitor Management System and received our badge, the greeter did something nobody has ever done before, she asked for my car keys.
Why? Because if I am actually there under false pretenses, surrendering my car keys would make it difficult for me to escape. If I have concocted a plan to do something I shouldn't do, this simple request, at the point of entry into the school, could cause me to react negatively, perhaps refusing to turn over my keys, which would alarm people. For instance, if I am hiding a weapon and intent to injure people, not having my car keys will make my escape much harder.
Having to come back to this same checkpoint to get my keys means that school security personnel know when I leave, which is important. If I show up at 9:30 and say that I am there for a meeting with my child's teacher and my keys are still at the checkpoint two hours later, eyebrows should be raised because a two hour visit with a teacher during the school day would be pretty unusual.
Take the keys of your visitors and ask them for their mobile phone number so you have it if you need it. Share911 can integrate with your Visitor Management System to show employees and First Responders the visitors who are currently in your building.
Visitor management shouldn't end with "hello", it should end at "goodbye".