Ft. Lee developing new mass alert system for emergencies - NBC12 - WWBT - Richmond, VA News On Your Side

Ft. Lee developing new mass alert system for emergencies

FORT LEE, VA (WWBT) -

There is no word yet on the identity of the Fort Lee officer who turned a gun on herself on post Monday morning. Tuesday, Fort Lee officials said they could release her name as soon as Wednesday. Meantime, the entire post is acknowledging that seconds can mean the difference between life and death whenever there's an emergency.

That's why Ft. Lee is developing a new plan to notify soldiers and employees of a critical situation in an instant. Right now leaders on post send out emails and a mass voice alert that's heard throughout the installation when there's an emergency, but the plan under development can instantly go straight to the cell phones of anyone who signs up.

Monday's mayhem at Ft. Lee caught the installation and the surrounding community off guard.

"To have an active shooter there, that was a shock," said 28-year-Army Veteran John Dowd.

It reminded him of the chaos he witnessed when stationed at Fort Hood in 2009. That's when an Army major killed 13 people.

"Sirens started popping. Everybody started scrimmaging everywhere. You see police cars, then all of a sudden you see FBI vehicles marked," Dowd recalled.

Only difference, he says Fort Hood had an immediate alert system that notified troops by text message, a system not yet in place at Fort Lee. Tuesday, leaders on post said that's about to change.

Even before Monday's shooting, Fort Lee was already developing an alert system that will send either a voice or text message, an email, a pop-up alert on a computer, or a fax to anyone on post who chooses to get it.

It's designed to be interactive. In some cases, it might ask ‘are you in a safe place' or ‘do you need help'. You can respond with the press of a button.

Operations specialist James Livingston says when there's an active shooter or a disaster, that ability can make a huge difference in how emergency crews are able to respond.

Those who work at nearby businesses say even though they won't receive the notifications, they would feel in the know since troops can instantly pass that information on to people they know.

"If I'm working here, it would definitely help me being here. You will never know if they come off of base or anything like that," said Brooke Dancy of Tan N Time.

"The more people you can reach and the quicker you can reach them, the quicker they're alerted. It's better for everybody," Dowd added.

A Ft. Lee spokesman says the success of the new alert system will largely depend on how well employees and troops respond to it. He says as soon as its unveiled in the coming weeks - he's hoping everyone who can will opt in.

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