GOSHEN — The city of Goshen is investing in a new instant messaging service that could help cut down on response times when emergencies, like school shootings or tornadoes, strike.
The Goshen Board of Public Works and Safety agreed Friday, May 23, to buy a citywide license for an internal communication network. The service, eTieline, is used in 400 municipalities across the Midwest, developer Joe Humberger said.
The board purchased the license, plus a year’s worth of maintenance and support, for $18,788. The price tag included a $10,000 discount courtesy of a grant provided by eTieline owner eRose Technologies in South Bend.
Goshen patrol division chief Shawn Turner was introduced to eTieline at a conference about school safety.
“It offers us the ability to eliminate response times,” he told the board. “Instead of a 911 call coming in and going to a dispatch center — which is the preferred way for most things to happen — and the dispatch center dispatching police officers to that scene, this now offers the opportunity for the school system to hit what they call a panic button.”
A broadcast message can be sent directly to officers’ smartphones and tablets in seconds, Turner added.
“It would basically eliminate our response time to a tragic situation if it was to develop,” he said.
The network is used by Indiana Homeland Security, dispatch centers, schools, government offices and Indiana State Police, among others, for day-to-day operations as well as emergencies. In 2013, 70,000 instant messages were sent over eTieline’s network, Humberger said.
In Goshen, the service will be used by the police and fire departments, the mayor’s office, the courts and other city departments. Indiana Homeland Security has provided licenses for school systems in the district that includes Goshen.
“This is an interesting opportunity for police and fire to get a pre-alert, something that is unheard of in public safety, to know relevant information coming to those police officers several minutes before it goes over the radio,” Humberger said.
Every second counts, he added.
“We can all imagine if a shooter came in with an automatic rifle into a school,” Humberger said. “The processing time from a 911 call going over radio might be one or two or maybe three minutes. Three minutes is a lot of time. There can be a lot of casualties in three minutes, so by providing that pre-alert, if they can get that message even 30 or 60 seconds before it comes over the radio, lives can be saved.”
Humberger noted that eTieline is not meant to replace calling 911. Instead, it adds an extra layer of communication, he explained.
“When we’re working with schools, we’re not suggesting not to call 911 if you have something going on,” he said. “What we’re suggesting is if someone walks in with a bomb and you can’t pick up the phone to dial 911, what other options do you have? We’re giving them another option.”
Follow Elkhart Truth reporter Angelle Barbazon on Twitter at @tweetangelle.