Schools test new security technology

LAKE MARY, Fla. – Students in Central Florida are heading back to school in just a few weeks and that means local districts are already working on plans to keep them safe.

[WEB EXTRA: SCPS App for iPhone | SCPS App for Android | ShotSpotter Secure Campus | ShotSpotter Video]

A student from Lake Mary High School shot cellphone video last February of officers checking a locker room with rifles in hand after someone called 911 saying shots were fired on campus.

After hearing the news, panicked parents packed the campus only to find the school on lockdown. Administrators had no way of notifying those parents at the time.

"Getting information to parents was a challenge," said Michael Lawrence, a representative for Seminole County schools.

Lawrence said since then, the district has rolled out two new programs. One of those is a telephone system that can send a message to parents via email, voicemail and text message, with a few clicks.

The newest program is an app that launched Monday. It can send push alerts on iPhones and Androids to parents in the event of an emergency.

"Security is our major concern, so any tool that could help that, it would be an asset to us," said Lawrence.

There is new technology being tested for schools called ShotSpotter. The gunshot-detecting microphones are already used in many cities. In schools, they're designed to help law enforcement officers quickly identify and locate an active shooter on campus. The company that makes ShotSpotter said it's accurate to within 10 feet.

Right now, ShotSpotter is being tested at Newark Memorial High School in Newark, California. Principal Phil Morales, who is a former police officer, said it is necessary.

"Why do we need a fire alarm? If there's a fire that happens and the alarm goes off, we know how to react," said Morales.

The FBI said there were 27 school shootings in the United States between 2000 and 2013, resulting in 57 deaths and 60 injuries.

"It won't stop a school shooting, but it'll get us to the shooter quicker," said Newark Police Commander Mike Carroll. "It'll get us to render first aid, medical aid to those people who are injured in a shooting much, much faster."

The technology costs about $15,000 for installation with additional annual monitoring costs.

Local 6 News has learned no school district in Central Florida is even familiar with it. However, Lawrence said it is something to watch.

"We'll probably monitor that very closely to see what works for them and what they don't like, and kind of monitor that closely to see if it's a system that might be utilized here in our district," Lawrence said.