SAPD trains on active shooter response phone app

LifeSpot app meant to cut down on police response times to active shooters

San Antonio police are training with a new tool for responding to active shooter situations. It's an app that schools, churches, and businesses can use, and the company that made it claims it can cut down on response time and help manage the confusion at the scene.

SAN ANTONIO – San Antonio police are adding another tool that they hope could help officers better respond to active shooter situations.

Members of SAPD’s SWAT team gathered at a church in northwest Bexar County on Tuesday to try out LifeSpot, a cellphone app meant to cut down on response times and better manage the confusion at the scene. The training was scheduled before the Uvalde school shooting happened, according to SAPD.

“This may shave two, three minutes off of response time. Imagine how many people somebody could kill in one, two, three minutes,” said SAPD Special Operations Unit Director Lt. Mark Molter.

Schools, businesses, and churches can subscribe to the app, which allows users to trigger an alert that would put them into contact with 911 while simultaneously notifying everyone else at the location about the shooter and police officers who have the app.

After the alert is sent out, the teachers or employees on-site can mark off if they’re injured, if they were able to flee, or if they had to hunker down and “fortify” where they are. Their locations are sent to 911 or police, with whom they can also message directly to give information on the shooter.

The idea is to allow more information to get through to police in a situation that would typically prompt a flood of 911 calls and possibly overload a dispatch center.

“Especially in smaller jurisdictions, you may have one, maybe two dispatchers of people that take that call. So you have 100 people, and some of them may have very life and death -- pertinent information they can’t get through,” said LifeSpot CEO Brett Titus, a former Denver Police Department SWAT officer.

SAPD will be able to use the app for free, but schools or other organizations that want to use it would pay a monthly subscription, which Titus says costs between 30 cents and “a couple bucks” per user, depending on the number of users.

Molter said the app would not bypass 911, and SAPD still has protocols in place.

“If a school doesn’t have this -- school district doesn’t have this -- we have active shooter protocols. If we lost all internet connection and we had no way to -- we have active shooter protocols that we fall back on, and we continue to do what we’ve been trained to do,” Molter said.

SAPD plans to move ahead with using the app, though only SWAT will have it for now. Chief William McManus said it would “probably” be a discussion the department would have with SWAT commanders about whether they should roll it out to all SAPD officers.

McManus also said that “at first blush,” he thought it was a good app, though there would need to be more conversations with SWAT about how the app works before the department recommends it to schools or other organizations.

Titus said the company has “thousands” of individual users in Colorado and has just expanded into Arizona. McManus said SAPD would be the first police department in Texas to use it.

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About the Author:

Garrett Brnger is a reporter with KSAT 12.