“”Sycamore Middle has been my home for almost 19 years, and the safety of our school is a responsibility that I take very seriously as a school counselor,” …. “Yesterday, my previous training and experience granted me the opportunity to help a student in need while protecting our school family as well.
Molly Hudgens, Sycamore Middle School, Cheatham County

WKRN, Tenn reported recently about a 14-yr old’s plan to conceal and smuggle a loaded weapon and ammunition into school with the intent to shoot teachers and police.   The teen had planned to carry out what could so easily have been the latest mass shooting in the US but in a twist, the youth called to see school counselor, Molly Hudgens after indicating to her that she would be the only one to talk him out of it. The counselor knew that this presented her with 3 responsibilities.

*To address and assist the student at their point of need.

*To notify others in the school in order to get assistance rapidly.

*To do everything in her power to protect those at the school.

Counselor Hudgens attempted to simultaneously call for help and work with the armed teen, yet it was reported that bad cellphone signal made this very difficult. The conversation and reasoning continued for an hour after which Molly was able to convince the boy to hand over the weapon.

Counselor Hudgens explained how previous crisis training and experience kicked in to allow her to communicate with this “student in need” and protect others at the school from harm.

Video below:

…Bad cellphone reception in the building made it difficult to alert other school staff about the gun and the plot”…the counselor “had a lot on her shoulders” as she was simultaneously trying to alert law enforcement using her cell phone in “a discreet manner” so she would not alarm the teen or cause him to panic.”
Sheriff Mike Breedlove, Cheatham County Sheriff's Office

By the narrowest of margins, disaster was averted on this occasion, however in addition to an unavoidable element of sheer good fortune, some of the key factors in this outcome were certainly ones that organizations can both learn from and indeed, implement.

Molly had been given crisis training and this was critical in knowing how to deal with a situation of threat and potential harm. Any organization requiring workers to deal with clients, patients, or members of the public IN ISOLATION should regard such training as essential and not an option.

Had this counselor been ill-equipped to deal with this disturbed boy the outcome would have almost certainly resulted in fatalities, in line with his previously claimed plot.

Of course Molly’s many years of experience may well have led to much more rapid conclusions and assessments of the threat, but regardless, the crisis training was cited as being of vast importance to the avoidance of harm.

The other key factor, and a negative at that, is the issue of the complication of raising the alert with a cellphone covertly and for that call to connect to who it needs to. Some of the drawbacks of relying on the stock functions of a cellphone in an emergency situation can include:

  • Cellphones while equipped with GPS do not send location data to first responders or even co-workers. see how 911 calls do not include reliable location data.

  • The most common way to use a cellphone to make emergency contact requires use of the keyboard or keypad which requires concentration and works best with the phone in plain view.
  • Communicating an emergency with a cellphone requires either clear descriptions and calm demeanor on the part of the sender, or for the recipient to be aware that the nature of the call is an emergency.

With some consideration to these points, it becomes clearer that a simple cellphone is not necessarily going to offer a strong defense or emergency response method, indeed some other layers are required.

Location data may be being generated and transmitted constantly by even the most inexpensive of smartphone models but this data resides in apps such as Google Maps and other navigation tools.

Cellphones need continuity of service to transmit an audible message in the form of call. An emergency is not the time for drop-outs in signal, this will hamper understanding of the emergency message.

Finally, interacting with the phone in a covert situation to raise the alarm is sometimes best done in a covert fashion. Certainly in this case the balance was on a knife edge and this would likely have resulted in a different outcome. In an emergency, the raising of an alert should be something that requires minimal screen/keypad touches and could in practice be done in stealthy concealed fashion.

Here is why GuardianMPS might have helped Molly and would help others in this or some other similar predicament.

  • Location Services are sent with alarm notifications to our 24/7 central stations. We KNOW where you are and can relay to first responders.
  • Manned Central Stations are there to process and escalate emergency alerts day and night, around the clock. Never get a busy line when it’s your lifeline!
  • The GuardianMPS app enables panic alerts to be created quickly in a concealed manner. The main Panic Button is a simple press and hold then background audio and details of the affected individual are sent through to the waiting Central Station teams. The Samsung/Android version also features an extra stealth feature by allowing one key panic alerts by a succession of power button presses.
  • With GuardianMPS handling the panic alert, Molly would not have needed to say anything, the background monitoring would have picked up the unfolding events and allowed a co-ordinated response without input from the affected individual.
  • Not every threat involves a deadly weapon and in a less threatening situation following careful risk assessment, nominated co-worker responders could have been drafted to support the affected individual and bring the incident under control. GuardianMPS actively partners and involves co-workers, line managers and office staff to assist in co-ordinating an emergency response where it would result in speedier more effective delivery where your team deem it safe to do so.

Molly, the school and yes, even the would-be assailant were fortunate not to suffer injury or death in this highly charged incident and it’s clear that all of Counselor Hudgen’s 19 years of skills and training were called upon.

No-one would wish for a repeat of this situation, it was precariously balanced with grave consequences in the case of it tipping over. Nevertheless, should some even modestly similar situation arise in the future, GuardianMPS is designed to make both the raising of panic alerts and co-ordinating a response a  much more efficient and systematic process…lacking in the need for luck.

If you have employees or workers vulnerable to threat or workplace violence, talk to GuardianMPS to see how simple it is to implement steps to protect them, and ensure that your safety program remains well within required safety directives from OSHA and state departments.