Georgia educator creates system to help keep schools safer

As mass shootings continue across our nation, many people are seeking solutions. It’s what inspired Georgia educator Miriam Gitau to create SimulAlert.
Published: May. 12, 2023 at 11:17 AM EDT
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ATLANTA, Ga. (Atlanta News First) - As mass shootings continue across our nation, many people are seeking solutions. It’s what inspired Georgia educator Dr. Miriam Gitau to create SimulAlert.

Gitau began developing the coordinated communication system in 2012, after the school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., that killed 26 people.

SimulAlert’s patented communication platform gives administrators and first responders real-time situational awareness, pinpointing where on campus the emergency is taking place.

So far, Dominion Christian School in Marietta is the only school where SimulAlert has been installed.

Inside the school are small devices inside every classroom, and above every door, that resemble smoke detectors. On a normal day, the devices are hardly visible. But if a teacher triggers an alert, the device lights up in a corresponding color.

There are four buttons on the devices that teachers and staff have access to.

Red represents an active shooter, or armed intruder. Blue represents a medical emergency. Yellow is pressed when administrative assistance is needed. And green signifies “all clear.”

Once an alarm is triggered, a notification is sent to administrators on a digital map showing which classroom needs help.

If a blue or yellow button is pushed, it will only light up the device outside of the classroom where it went off.

But Patrick Muigai with the SimulAlert team says if a code red is triggered, all of the devices across the entire school turn red and an alarm sounds off for about 30 seconds. This will notify everyone in the bathroom, gym, library, lunchroom, and classrooms there’s an emergency situation.

Once a classroom is secure, Muigai says a teacher can press the green button letting people know they’re okay.

“By using a system like this, some lives could be saved,” Patrick Muigai with the SimulAlert team said. “People will be notified within a very short time that there’s a threat. They’ll know what to do. And then first responders would be guided accordingly and be able to prioritize where help is needed.”

Brent Brown, who owns a private security consulting firm, calls SimulAlert a “promising new tool” that can be helpful in emergency situations. Much like how license plate readers helped police track the Midtown shooting suspect to Cobb County last week.

But Brown adds that technology needs to work in tandem with law enforcement.

“For the last 15 years we’ve been preaching that the future of security is blending boots and technology,” Brown said. “You’ve got to have a back-up plan and make sure that you’re not doing anything in lieu of just the technology.”

Muigai says while SimulAlert can’t eliminate all threats, it can certainly help notify people faster when there is an emergency and possibly give them time to get somewhere safe.

SimulAlert developers are hoping to expand to other schools.