Army to release mobile app for responding to active shooter emergency


13 July 2017 | Christopher Diamond | Army Times

“The Army announced Wednesday plans to release a mobile application that would allow soldiers and civilians to rapidly alert first responders during an active shooter incident.

Army Training and Doctrine Command and TRADOC Capability Manager-Mobile (TCM Mobile) announced that a team of civilian employees from the Aviation Center of Excellence, Fort Rucker, Alabama, submitted the winning entry for a competition TRADOC held to develop an active shooter response mobile app.

Once the app is formally ready for release, it will be available in Google Play, the Apple App Store and other online app stores, according to the Army.

“If adrenaline kicks in and they forget what to do in the moment, all of that information is right there in front of them,” said Matt MacLaughlin, a civilian employee at TRADOC Senior Mobile Training Development. “It should help everybody respond to that situation in the fastest manner possible.”

The winning entry — which has yet to be officially named — allows users to walk through various steps for how to respond to an active shooter situation, and what to do and not do when law enforcement arrives on scene.

We’re going to try to think for you,” MacLaughlin said in an Army release. “Because there’s situations where you won’t have time to think.”

In an emergency situation, users can tap open the app and tap another button to reach an emergency dialer to get in touch with law enforcement. There will also be a Spanish translation feature. The Army Provost Marshal’s office is still reviewing final features of the application, according to MacLaughlin.

It is unclear if the app will feature any means of alerting law enforcement without having to speak on the phone. In an active shooter situation, it is sometimes dangerous to make an emergency call when in hiding.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s “ Active Shooter: How to Respond” booklet says to remain quiet and silence your phone if the shooter is near. The booklet advises to try and call emergency responders and let dispatchers listen if it is unsafe to talk.

But because vital, timely information can be impossible to relay over the phone in these scenarios, many law enforcement agencies are implementing what are known as Text-to-911 services to allow for texting dispatchers. There are currently more than 1,000 law enforcement agencies nationwide that offer or are implementing Text-to-911 services, according to the Federal Communications Commission. The Army could not immediately confirm whether the app would feature a service similar to texting for communicating with emergency dispatchers.

In addition to instances of on-post shootings, there have been several attacks at military recruiting centers. It is unclear if the app will allow for service members off-post at recruiting centers to use the app to contact local authorities.

While the app has yet to be released, there is significant value in increasing access to first responders for Army personnel in the event of an active shooter. Since 2009, 32 people have been killed in mass shooting attacks on military installations and at recruiting centers, according to The Washington Post. An additional 52 have been wounded.

Fort Hood soldier stands guard following 2009 shootingA soldier stands guard outside a mobile command post at Fort Hood, Texas, on Nov. 5, 2009 following a mass shooting attack by then-Maj. Nidal Hasan. Thirteen were killed and 32 injured in the attack.Photo Credit: ArmyThe Army is rapidly expanding its use of mobile apps as a means of keeping soldiers informed and safe. 

“We have people all the time that want to have mobile applications created and they want it … as soon as possible,” said Lt. Col. Joe Harris, TRADOC Capability Manager-Mobile. “Now that they have this capability down at the school level … decentralized creation lessens the work on this end to have the mobile application (available for use).”

The new active shooter app follows the development of the “We Care” mobile apps created for sexual harassment and suicide prevention. TCM Mobile has produced about 80 mobile apps for other purposes, according to the Army. These include apps for combat training.

TCM hopes to establish a pipeline of emergency mobile apps, according to MacLaughlin. It also hopes to establish servicewide infrastructure to oversee development and training of mobile apps.

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