BluePoint Alert provides schools with an intuitive security solution

April 17, 2015
The BluePoint Rapid Emergency Response System enables fast response for first responders in a crisis situation

In the security industry, the sad truth is that sometimes tragedy sparks an “ah-ha” moment that provides a possible solution to past events. Such was the case with John McNutt and John Shales, both partners at a 12-person engineering firm in the Chicago suburbs, who were so unnerved by the horrific massacre at Sandy Hook elementary school in December of 2012 that they developed a rapid communication concept during a meeting with a local school district superintendent and decided to bring it to market.

So in 2013, BluePoint Alert Solutions was born, featuring a unique, but simple concept that is the industry’s first Rapid Emergency Response System (RERS). “We’re dads, so like everyone else, our hearts were broken when the news of the shootings broke. Being engineers and problem-solvers by nature, we asked ourselves if there was a potential solution to help prevent incidents like Sandy Hook and others,” remembers John Shales, who has more than 25 years of experience as a professional construction engineer, with many of his projects in the school and institutional markets. “We quickly met with the superintendent and sheriff and began to put a plan together. Once we walked out of the meeting with (district school) Superintendent Tom Stern we noted that every school has a fire alarm, why don’t we have an alarm for police? Somebody ought to address this. So we decided to see if we could make a difference.”

The partners considered several, what they call “intuitive facts”, when they began to work with their team to formulate a solution. Perhaps the predominant factor in any crisis they surmised was the faster the first responders are on site, the faster the emergency situation is contained. It also stood to reason that the faster people take precautions, the faster they become safe, since it has been proven the panic-stricken people don’t think or act rationally.

“We want to get police there quickly and also make sure the people on site know what’s happening so they can take precautions. They need to go into their lockdown protocols or whatever their procedures may be. We looked at the reports coming out of Sandy Hook. The front office was immediately disabled, so there was no ability to call police or get to the PA and make an announcement,” Shales says. ”So we sought a solution that would automate the process of getting immediate notification to police without having to pick up and use a cell phone worrying about getting a signal, dialing the number and then speaking intelligently during the crisis. At the same time let’s get a message to the entire building automatically through the PA system so that when an incident happens we are not relying on someone like a janitor – which was the case at Sandy Hook – running down the hallways screaming out warnings to the teachers.”

The RERS that BluePoint Alert has rolled out has been formulated and developed to cut through any potential confusion in communication. The mission is to get messages to their respective sources efficiently and quickly. The system is specifically designed to speed the response times of law enforcement/first responders and notify building occupants when potentially life-threatening incidents occur within schools and other facilities. While schools have been BluePoint’s primary target market, they have gotten positive feedback from other types of organizations like churches, libraries and corporate offices – any place where people could be exposed to the threat of an active shooting incident and need to be communicated with quickly.

John McNutt, who also has more than 25 years’ experience as a professional construction engineer, explains that the system’s concept is straightforward. There are two parallel paths that are activated when an incident occurs. Once the monitoring company notifies police, at the same time calls, text or email is automatically sent out to a predetermined group of stakeholders like superintendent and administrators. Police are getting their information immediately relative to location and also the location of the incident within the facility itself.  There is also a repeated message that might include instructions to leave the building or take appropriate precaution, being broadcast across the building’s PA system.

“Schools do a great job preparing students and teachers what to do in case of an emergency. This system gets the message out to them so they can react and initiate those protocols. In almost every recent event that has taken place at a school, most of the people inside don’t know what had happened until the event was over. We think our solution is the key to that missing piece of the puzzle,” says McNutt.

While BluePoint Alert has been working exclusively with Emergency 24 as its monitoring partner for some time, both parties made the partnership official at the ISC West event. The RESRS solution combines the intuitive BluePoint pull station alert and notification system with EMERgency24’s industry-leading Central Stations monitoring and communications offerings. Similar to a standard “fire alarm,” occupants can activate a BluePoint police pull station and EMERgency24’s monitoring services will notify law enforcement of an emergency situation to expedite their response.

BluePoint uses a highly secure 900 MHz wireless network that is completely dedicated to response alerts and is independent of other building systems. The system covers the entire building or campus, plus any surrounding areas (parking lots, athletic fields, etc.). Once a wearable mobile device, pull station or sound sensor is activated, EMERgency24 immediately sends alerts to local law enforcement with the building address and exact incident location within the building, using Visual Point Identification (VPI) technology. At the same time, building occupants are instantly notified to take precautions through PA or phone systems and mobile phones, as well as blue strobe lights inside and outside the building. This automation helps panicked personnel act swiftly and reduces the response time of both law enforcement and building occupants.

All BluePoint alert signals are transmitted to EMERgency24, which then automatically relays the information to first responders – police or paramedics. The system also establishes a two-way communications flow between a central command group and building occupants to convey essential information. All text, email, and voice call alerts are managed through EMERgency24’s robust communications infrastructure. The company also monitors the BluePoint system for low battery or loss of connectivity to ensure continuous, reliable service.

“We like the intuitiveness of the system itself. It is easy to figure that the red stations get the fire department and blue ones call the police. It is that simple. One superintendent in Colorado whose schools are using this system had a great comment, saying that there is no training involved in the system, just awareness. It is that intuitive,” adds Shales.

Shales and McNutt have also planned several enhancements that would extend the reach of the system even further, including the integration of medical alert system, video surveillance integration, glass break detection, and automatic door closing /locking capability.

“We put this enhancement in the first Beta test site we did and the local sheriff was beside himself realizing he had the capability to monitor an ongoing emergency situation with video on site. The video integration system is offered at no charge if there is an IP system installed,” says McNutt.

About the Author

Steve Lasky | Editorial Director, Editor-in-Chief/Security Technology Executive

Steve Lasky is a 34-year veteran of the security industry and an award-winning journalist. He is the editorial director of the Endeavor Business Media Security Group, which includes the magazine's Security Technology Executive, Security Business, and Locksmith Ledger International, and the top-rated website He is also the host of the SecurityDNA podcast series.Steve can be reached at [email protected]