IE 11 Not Supported

For optimal browsing, we recommend Chrome, Firefox or Safari browsers.

Findlay, Ohio, Schools Adopt ‘Time Gap’ System for Emergencies

Findlay Schools are equipped with a biometric system that sounds alarms and notifies the appropriate people of an incident and the location of where a disturbance is happening, saving critical time.

close up of locked doors to a school hallway with lockers in the background
locked school doors with lockers visible through the windows
Matt Cooper is a Findlay, Ohio, City Schools board member, a battalion chief of the local fire department and a swat medic. He’s also a father of school-age kids.

He was frustrated by the number of school shootings across the country and sought to make Findlay schools as safe as they could be. Understanding that time is of the essence, he worked with the local police department to find a solution to close the “time gap” that often comes between when an incident begins and when police can arrive. If teachers and administrators know right away that something is happening, they can help get more students to safety more quickly.

Fast-forward to today and Findlay schools are equipped with the SafeDefend alert system, a hardwired biometric system that identifies a user with a touch of their finger and then immediately goes to work, sending texts to the appropriate people with a message and location. It also sets off alarms loudly, and that was important for Cooper.

“We know there are silent alarm systems out there, and that’s not what we were looking for,” he said. “We know from executing search warrants that typically what happens is that a suspect we’re after knows that we’re coming and they usually flee. Same with an active shooter.”

Cooper said a silent system could possibly leave out kids or staff who were in a bathroom. “We wanted something that when activated would be loud and disturbing to the intruder,” he added.

Cooper also wanted a system that would notify first responders immediately, rather than waiting for someone to pick up a phone and call 911. “We did listen to quite a few 911 calls from active killer situations and there’s a huge time gap there, and we know from research that about every 12 seconds somebody dies in an active shooter event.”

Findlay Schools has attached to the response a pre-planned message to address an emergency situation. Luckily, there hasn’t been such an emergency but there was a false alarm, which acted as a test for the system.

“We were the victim of a swatting incident, but the teacher ended up activating SafeDefend and the response was unbelievable,” Cooper said.

The system is the brainchild of Jeff Green, who worked as a school principal during the Sandy Hook shootings and felt the need to take action.

“Those that are authorized to access the system with a touch of a finger are able to set off multiple paths of notification,” Green said. “A 911 call is placed with the exact location of where it was set off, a notification alert is placed, siren strobes begin and a voice module is going off, letting everyone know they need to lock down and secure in place or find an exit.”

The system is designed for defined users, so that people not in danger aren’t alerted. Some districts are putting the local police department on the notification list.

“It’s really broad, who can be on the list,” Green said. “But the core components need to be those who are in the crisis situation in that facility ... and those who can help respond as quickly as possible.”


Jim McKay is the editor of Emergency Management magazine.