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Do cellphones make us safer in violent situations?

Posted at 1:11 PM, Sep 06, 2018
and last updated 2018-09-07 23:30:39-04

PAWHUSKA, Okla. -- Cellphones can be a great tool for students. 

Some teachers are incorporating them into their lessons for educational purposes. 

In theory, they can be used by students to help students in the event of an active shooter situation.

While having the device can give parents and students peace of mind, safety experts warn relying on them is not always the best course of action. 

Jodi Culver teaches language arts to seventh- and eighth-graders at Pawhuska Public Schools. She said the rule for the Huskies is that students can have cellphones at school and use them between classes. During class, they have to be shut off. 

"I think it needs to be readily available," Culver said. "I would want mine with me if the situation arose, so I think if they have a cellphone they would need to have it on their person."

Culver did say there is an appropriate time and place for the devices. 

"We had active shooter training at the end of this last school year and we had that in place, and that was the number one thing that we saw, was students pulling out cellphones and videoing the situation," Culver said. 

Culver said the students are not going to be engaged with what is going on if they are wrapped up in their phones. 

"I keep it on me just in case an emergency ever happens," said Kiana Taylor, a senior at Pawhuska High School. "If I'm going to my car and my car is messed up, it would be right there." 

Like Taylor said, having a cellphone can give people a sense of security in the event of an emergency, especially during a life or death situation, like an active shooter. People want to be able to call for help or let their loved ones know they are safe. 

Former Tulsa Police SWAT Team member Greg Douglass warns they can be detrimental in active shooter situations. 

"Someone is standing right there and could be giving aid," Douglass said. "It's like, 'Why don't you put down your phone and help?' Or you are literally in the middle of this and you are being victimized. You need to put down your phone to save yourself." 

Douglass said even if the students are not recording, it is absolutely necessary to pay attention. He said calling 911 is not always the best option when there is someone with a gun at your school. 

"Stop relying on police to save you when your life is on the line," Douglass said. "You have to do it yourself. You have to take those immediate steps in those first few seconds to save your own life." 

He said it can take the police several minutes to arrive and most criminal acts happen in seconds. 

Culver agreed that the students need to put down the phones and pay attention to their teacher's plan. 

As far as videoing what is going on, Taylor wonders why that is people's first instinct. 

"You could be stopping the situation, but people just pull out their phones," Taylor said. "I'm like, 'this could have been stopped a long time ago.'"

Taylor said the videos usually make it on the internet and make things worse. 

Douglass cautions against posting online or streaming when something like this is happening. The suspect could be watching and getting clues.

"It literally could give away our positions and actions and things we were doing on the outside," Douglass warned.  

He does not think cellphones are all bad. He said they have changed the way police do things. 

Video from someone who is not actively involved and is able to record can benefit investigators. He said they use social media to piece things together and in the case of an active shooter, phones can help officers get a better idea of what is going on inside. 

"Let's say a hostage scenario where someone is barricaded in a room with a bunch of kids and they aren't coming out, that could come in handy in gathering information on how many are in there, what part of the school are they in," Douglass said. 

He did warn that noises from a phone can give away a person's location if they are trying to hide. 

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