Four Arizona counties implementing new school safety system for emergencies

School staff and teachers can use the app Mutualink on their phones, which has a panic button.
Published: May. 26, 2022 at 5:07 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- Four counties in Arizona are in the process of implementing a new school safety emergency response system that will connect law enforcement to the public and allow for faster response times.

“What our technology does, it connects other technology like panic buttons, and door-locking mechanisms and cameras and things like that really give law enforcement that critical information needed to respond and puts it directly in the hands of law enforcement,” explained Chrissie Coon, the Chief Strategy Officer of Mutualink.

Mutualink was born out of the communication challenges from 9/11 that first responders had; now, their technology can be used in any public emergency. In recent years, they started seeing the need for it to be used in schools.

School staff and teachers can use the app on their phones, which has a panic button. “They get direct push-to-talk communication with law enforcement. Instead of picking up the phone, dialing 911 and trying to get through that way,” Coon said.

When the panic button is pushed, an alert is sent to the 911 dispatch center, letting them know where the emergency is and what is going on. Dispatchers will then get automatic access to the school’s surveillance cameras and a map of the school layout.

“On the school side, the school teachers and staff are able then to use their phones — almost like a walkie-talkie — and just be able to have push-to-talk communication directly with law enforcement who is coming to the scene,” Coon said.

This system is already being used in several other states, like Florida. Eight counties in Arizona have the funding through legislation to use Mutualink. Four of them are currently in the process of putting it into effect by the upcoming school year in the fall.

“In an urban setting, we’re looking to save seconds here, we’re looking to save minutes, and if we can save minutes on any little thing, it’s very valuable to us,” said Navajo County Sheriff David Clouse.

Navajo, Mojave, Greenlee, and Pinal counties are currently training to use Mutualink. “Obviously, it’s a little bit of a lift and a bit of coordination getting this done, but it’s a priority. I know everybody’s children at school are a priority to everybody,” said Sheriff Clouse.

Sheriff Clouse said in rural counties like his; they often have to work with different agencies. When Mutualink is used, other agencies will automatically get the same alert to start heading to the emergency. “We support each other very well, and we support each other, especially in these critical incidents,” Sheriff Clouse said. “Getting that information out is critical. If this could save us a minute or two, that’s even better.”

As a father of five, Sheriff Clouse says school safety is one of his top priorities. “I mean, it’s a heart-wrenching story, and we hear it again and again, but I’m in a position where I can make a difference, I’m in a position where I can ensure that we’re doing the most we can for each of our schools,” Sheriff Clouse said.

If schools are interested in using this school safety emergency response system, they can reach out to Mutualink directly.