App designed to silence cell phones, save lives during active shooter

Local News

Cell phones can be a life-saver in an active-shooter situation. But, some features can turn you into a target. 
 A new app is designed to silence the sights and sounds that could attract a shooter; and, the app’s creator says her research may have predicted Thursday’s school shooting in Santa Fe, Texas. 

The pinging noise of an active-shooter notification on cell phones. And, the bright screens warning of guns on campus can tell a potential active-shooter victim to get to safety. But, experts warn that they can also tell an armed shooter where to aim.

“Your phone makes you an automatic target,” said Cathy Callow-Heusser, a former educator. “The movie theater in Aurora, the backlit screens was a death sentence. Because in a dark space, the backlit screen gives you away.”

So, Cathy Callow-Heusser co-created the SOS app. It is short for Safe on Scene. The app immediately turns off loud notifications on cell phones and sends text messages to police and family marking smart phone’s location .

Callow-Heusser released the app in January.

“I was in schools all the time until last June when I retired,” she said. “It’s that worry over your head every day.”  

Callow-Heusser researched Texas while creating her app and noticed that 2016 FBI statistics showed a drop in violent gun-related crimes across the state and the country. But, other indicators pointed to a potential upcoming boost in those same violent crimes.

Two months before SOS hit the market, the Sutherland Springs church shooting occurred. And, the Santa Fe school shooting, which killed 10 people happened this week.

“That’s going to change the trajectory for Texas,” Callow-Heusser said. “It doesn’t matter what state you’re in — red state or blue state — guns are everywhere. And as an educator, I wanted something that would help keep people safer.” 

Callow-Heusser said she is developing more features for the SOS app, which will allow schools to communicate everything from an active shooter on campus to maintenance issues. She says the goal is to get teachers to use the app as much as possible so they will know what to do in a deadly situation.

Some features on the app are free and others cost up to $5 for a yearly subscription. 

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