DPS to issue active shooter alerts

Texas now has an Active Shooter Alert that will allow residents living in a 50-mile radius of the incident to receive an alert of an active shooting.

The Active Shooter Alert is a directive of Texas House Bill 103, referred to as the Leilah Hernandez Act that is named after the 15-year-old girl who was killed in a mass shooting incident Aug. 13, 2019.

Hernandez was shot and killed an hour after the incident began and officials believe had there been some type of alert system in place at the time, her death might have been prevented.

HB 103 was introduced as a bill on Nov. 9, 2020, by state Rep. Brooks Landgraf, of Odessa. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed it into law on May 5 and it took effect on Sept. 1.

Similar to other alerts such as the Amber Alert, Silver Alert and Blue Alert, the Texas Department of Public Safety will issue an Active Shooter Alert when a request is made from an agency providing it meets the requirements that are needed to issue such an alert.

The Active Shooter Alert criteria include the following:

>> An active shooter is in the requesting agency’s jurisdiction

>> Determination that an Active Shooter Alert would assist individuals near the active shooter’s location

>> Verification exists of the active shooter situation through a preliminary investigation by the requesting agency

>> The active shooter’s last known location is identifiable

The Active Shooter Alert System will also utilize the Texas Department of Transportation’s Dynamic Message Signs, which would rapidly alert the public of specific public safety messages along highways and right of ways across the state, a TxDOT spokesperson stated in an email.

In a May 25 press release, Landgraf said, ““The passage of the Leilah Hernandez Act means that Texans will be able to receive timely alerts, similar to Amber alert messages we currently receive, if there is an active shooting taking place in their area,” Landgraf said. “This alert system could have saved the lives of some of my constituents back in 2019, like high school student Leilah Hernandez. The goal of this legislation is to save lives and prevent mass violence while protecting the constitutional rights of law-abiding Texans.”

According to the FBI, there were six active shooting events in Texas in 2019, including the shooting in the Odessa area and the shooting at the Walmart in El Paso. There were three in 2020 with one mass killing site.

Nationwide there were 40 active shooting incidents in 2020 and 28 in 2019.

House Bill 103 requires the DPS to develop and implement the Active Shooter Alert System. The alerts are intended to be issued quickly via SMS and other available communications to the public near an active shooter situation.

A spokesperson for DPS said the state agency has been working over the past few months on the implementation of the system.

“The goal of this alert is to save lives and prevent mass violence by notifying the public of nearby active shooter situations and encouraging them to either avoid the area or to shelter in place,” the DPS said in an email.

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