We don’t know what is happening.
Like countless people around the country yesterday, I watched the active shooter situation in Colorado Springs, CO unfold on live television and Twitter.
While the incident was still happening, MSNBC and other news agencies were on the phone, speaking with people inside the building who were reporting that they had little, if any, situational awareness about what was happening around them. The news ticker at the bottom of the screen carried a powerful quote from a woman inside the building who was being interviewed on live television -
“We don’t know what is happening.”
Hundreds of people in adjacent buildings were directed to shelter in place for hours, while law enforcement worked to determine the location of the shooter and prevent further injuries or loss of life.
This morning, on the Today Show, a woman who had been inside the Planned Parenthood facility when the shooting began stated that as she sought shelter in the rear of the building, she encountered people who were completely unaware that there was an active shooter in the building. She informed them of the danger and they secured themselves in a room, where they remained for hours.
Regardless of your opinion of Planned Parenthood, the shooters motives or any political position you may posses, what happened in Colorado Springs yesterday was an incident of workplace violence.
There was undoubtedly a massive amount of emergency communication happening during this event. People called 911 and operators relayed information to law enforcement, firefighters and EMS personnel who responded. Much like we saw during the terrible tragedy at Bataclan in Paris, people inside the buildings likely texted with loved ones, facebooked and tweeted about their situation. Media converged on the scene to broadcast the story to our homes. People on Twitter used their 140-characters to opine on the incident, the motive, politics and more.
What appears did not occur was emergency collaboration — the ability for the people inside the incident, the employees of the various affected businesses, to share information with each other and with the first responders to show law enforcement exactly where the shooter was, show EMS personnel where injured persons were and enable employees to help each other if needed. Emergency collaboration is the ability for law enforcement to share information electronically with all of the people involved, so no one would say “we don’t know what is happening”, and to receive valuable information back from everyone on the scene.
I am a volunteer firefighter who set out to enable emergency collaboration through the simple use of existing technology — the mobile device in your hand and the computer on your desk, to change the outcome of these terrible incidents. The hours I spent watching the incident live on television and following it on Twitter were interrupted by people contacting me to say “wow, it’s too bad they aren’t using Share911.com.”
That’s a humbling compliment but it is also a source of great frustration to me as a CEO. Most leaders of enterprise software companies are focused on growth because it will enable them to make more money or provide a return on investment for venture capitalists. For me, growth means the opportunity to save the lives of employees and first responders during emergencies.