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Indiana lawmakers eye bill to offer grants for school-shooting alert systems

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Instantly send emergency help to a school with the tap of a button. 

The idea is so popular with Indiana lawmakers that it already passed the House of Representatives. Now, lawmakers are pushing the measure through the state Senate, where a committee on March 19 unanimously backed it

We’re talking about an early warning system, and all you would need is a smartphone.

Imagine this, a dangerous situation unfolds at school. A teacher pushes a button on a phone.  The closest officers get the instant alert. First responders would immediatley know the specific location of the person who sent that alert.

“If something happens, what you need to do is have a system set up in place, where law enforcement’s notified and they get there as quick as possible,” said David Reynolds, the sheriff of Porter County in northwest Indiana.

The technology’s already in place at all Porter County schools. Every school staffer uses the free SchoolGuard app on their phones. Law enforcement uses the free companion app, called Hero911

“It doesn’t circumvent 911, but it contacts 911 at the same time it contacts local, state and federal on- and off-duty officers, which makes it so unique and powerful,” Reynolds said.

Reynolds said the city of Valparaiso and the sheriff’s office ponied up about $80,000 to put the system in place a few years ago.

“There’s like a ‘geofence’ that goes around every school,” Reynolds said. “That’s what that initial outlay went to. The way it’s set up now in Porter County, every entity pays $100 per building.” 

The bill before state lawmakers would provide millions of dollars in grants so schools could help pay for similar programs.

“It drops that response time tremendously, anywhere from 9-11 minutes on average down to 2 or 3,” said state Rep. Chuck Moseley, a Democrat from Portage. 

The quicker response could mean the difference between life and death in a school shooting.

“Every person I’ve spoken to has been very confident it’s going to save lives,” said state Rep. Greg Steuerwald, a Republican from Avon.