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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — This April marks the 20th anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting. The massacre, which killed 13 and wounded 21, is remembered as one of the most infamous school shootings in U.S. history.
Twenty years later, Columbine has changed everything about how police and schools respond to active shooter situations.
“Since Columbine, I think that every police department in the nation had changed their response to active shooters. Pittsburgh Police is no different,” said Pittsburgh Police Cmdr. Daniel Hermann.
His Zone 4 police station is just blocks from the Tree of Life Synagogue where 11 people were murdered by a gunman last October. Officers responding to the scene immediately went after the suspect.
“Eventually, our backup will arrive, but initially, we do not wait. Columbine changed history in reference to active shooter situations. We go in and we stop the threat,” Hermann said.
If there is ever an active shooter situation at Central Catholic High School, Cmdr. Hermann will be one of the first to get the call, thanks to a new system at the school called “Blue Point.” It looks just like a fire alarm, but it’s blue, and when it’s pulled it sends an automatic signal to police that there is an active shooter in the building.
“[When this is activated,] an alarm goes throughout the school, we have blue strobe lights in all the hallways that will start to go off, and a pre-recorded message comes on calling the school into lockdown,” said Andy Macurak, assistant principal for student affairs at Central Catholic. “The police are notified immediately.”
Macurak says it’s only to be used in active shooter situations.
“[Police know they are coming in] to take out a suspect,” Macurak said.
There are 200 schools across the country that have Blue Point, but Central Catholic was the first to get it in this area. The West Mifflin Area High School is the second.
The system cost Central Catholic $30,000, and the company that makes Blue Point says the system costs a fraction of what it costs to install a fire system.
Students and staff at Central Catholic do active shooter training several times a year.
“Twenty years ago, something like this would have been completely foreign to staff and to students. We probably had open door policies that point where doors were propped open and that’s how much it’s changed over the years, that we’re making an investment like this where doors used to be open at times,” Macurak said.
Twenty years after Columbine, Central Catholic is ready if something happens.
“We are as prepared as a group of teenage boys can possibly be for an emergency,” Macurak said.