S.A.F.E. donates emergency alert platform to U.S. schools, colleges and universities

Free enhanced protection in the event of a life-threatening emergency via hyperlocal mobile alerts
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Wednesday, April 24, 2019

NASHUA, N.H.—A non-glamorous side of being in the security industry is hearing about, witnessing the aftermath and reporting on school shootings. Since the Parkland, Fla. shooting in which 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, a former student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, opened fire on his former school’s campus with a semi-automatic rifle, claiming the lives of 17 people and injuring another 17, based on CNN’s math and on average, a school shooting occurs every 11.8 days in the United States. This very incident is what prompted James "Jim" Bender, managing director, Safety Alerts for Education Foundation (S.A.F.E.), to take action. 

“The Parkland massacre on February 14, 2018 combined with the nationwide school protests on March 14, 2018 made me realize that many students across our country do not believe that their schools are as safe as they should be,” Bender told SSN.  

The result of Bender’s realization is the S.A.F.E. Foundation, a non-profit, 501c3 organization founded by the principals of Ping4, Inc., inventors and developers of Ping4Alerts emergency communications technology used during the Boston Marathon bomber manhunt and in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. This same emergency alert technology is being offered to schools, colleges and universities across the U.S. via the free app, S.A.F.E. Once downloaded onto iOS or Android devices, an administrative alert dashboard to send secure, life-saving alerts is available.

Parents are also looped into the communication, receiving all alerts sent to their children while at school as well as designated, safe-child pick-up locations, regardless of where the parents are at the time. These messages originate from either school administrators or local law enforcement officers, or both.

S.A.F.E. delivers two-way rich media messages in real-time with any combination of audio, video, pictures and text, all of which is helpful to police, school administrators and first responders. Schools can customize, manage and send out alerts via a web-based portal, and the app can isolate a school building or campus on a map so that only those in the designated areas will receive the alerts. What’s more, S.A.F.E. is completely anonymous and does not collect personal data from users. 

To thwart hackers and ensure the S.A.F.E. platform is impenetrable, Bender said the following security measures are taken: 

  • No personal identifiable information (PII) is stored;
  • Passwords are complex (eight character minimum, one capital and one lower case letter, one number and one special character); encrypted with SHA-256 one-way hash; and users are forced to change their password every 90 days, without repeating the last eight passwords; and
  • Phone numbers used for texting are also encrypted with SHA-256 one-way hash.

 

“An annual assessment of security controls is performed by an accredited third-party audit firm,” Bender said. “MacStadium has the SSAE 16, SOC 1 Type 2, SOC 2 Type 2 and SOC 3 certifications and is independently ISO 27001 certified, following NIST Special Publication 800-53, a 462-paged document [of security and privacy controls for federal information systems and organizations, and a selection process to protect organizations] across all their data centers. HITRUST, pertaining to the creation, access, storage and exchange of sensitive and/or regulated data and HIPAA-HITECH, pertaining to health care information technology in general and electronic health record (EHR) systems is also assessed.” 

The S.A.F.E. data center in Atlanta also boasts certifications, including Tier III compliance, SSAE 16, SOC 1 Type 2, SOC 2 Type 2, SOC 3, PCI, OIX-2 and HIPAA.

There are “approximately 140,000 schools in 15,000 school districts in the USA that are eligible to receive this mobile alert platform absolutely free,” explained Bender. “Go to https://safeschoolapp.com, hit the button that says ‘MAKE YOUR SCHOOL S.A.F.E. TODAY!,’ and fill in a short application. Authorization credentials will then be sent.”

(Full disclosure, filling out on-line forms can sometimes be a bit daunting and seem like a waste of time, but the only information needed for S.A.F.E.’s form is first and last name; email address; phone number; job title; school name; and number of students and staff. I literally completed the form in 24 seconds! Not bad considering lives can be saved.) 

Bender said that S.A.F.E. will always be free to schools, and several police chiefs and school administrations have said: “S.A.F.E. is a platform that can provide a few extra seconds of warning in an extreme emergency, and that may help to reduce casualties.” 

Just as the security industry as a whole comes together to support Mission 500, it should also come together to get the word out to all schools in the United States about S.A.F.E. to help create safer school environments by providing the ability to simultaneously notify anyone within an impacted area with hyperlocal emergency alerts and real-time crisis communications. 

“Word of mouth is important,” concluded Bender. “We need to create awareness that this new program exists.”