Guilford County Sheriff’s Office looking to use real-time communication to help protect schools

GREENSBORO, N.C. -- It only takes a few minutes for an emergency, like an active shooter situation, to unfold.

Shootings at high schools in both Florida and more recently, Maryland are prime examples.

It's why the Guilford County Sheriff's Office is hoping to use technology to keep a better eye on schools, no matter where deputies are.

“By having it in the schools we would be able to... schools would use it on an everyday basis... tying it in to their current cameras and actually be able to tie in different radio systems,” Colonel Randy Powers said.

Powers’ is referring to MutuaLink.

It’s an emergency response communication system that would allow schools at their discretion to share real-time video and radio gateways with law enforcement with just a click of a button.

It’s already being used in schools, the military and hospital across the country, according to its website.

The sheriff's office says once a school presses that button a deputy, for example, can check out what's going on inside of their patrol car.

“By us being able to see the person we have a much better chance of identifying the person once we go in,” Powers said.

The sheriff's office has been working with MutuaLink for about 10 years and says when they presented this idea to Guilford County Schools back in 2010, it was turned down.

“The big reason we were told no is because they felt like we were invading their privacy. Even though I tried to tell them that the only time that we get to see it is when they press the button and let us have the right to be there. We don't get a chance to look at it any time we want,” Powers said.

Guilford County Schools responded in an email to FOX8 saying they are aware of the sheriff's ongoing interest but have not had the opportunity to meet or discuss it with him since 2010.

They go on to tell us that since the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, they have invested more than $8 million upgrading and increasing security measures at schools.

Guilford County Schools also says that they a joint facility study underway addressing school safety.

The sheriff's office crunched the numbers and told us that it's a little over $1 million to put MutuaLink in every school in Guilford County, which is roughly $9,000 per school.

Sheriff Barnes says he's in talks with state lawmakers and county commissioners on how to fund it.