New school safety app could save districts time and money, developers say

By Austen Erblat May 03, 2019
FrandMe, a new app developed in the wake of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, is designed to streamline communication between teachers, students, parents, administrators and first responders. (FrandMe)

Last year, on Feb. 13, Dimitry Shaposhnikov was working with a team of 37 developers on a new mobile application to help businesses make their own websites and apps. The next day, he picked his cousin from school, ears glued to the radio that was sharing details on the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. At that time, Shaposhnikov said he thought he could put his new company to use in preventing another tragedy.

His latest company FrandMe focuses on real-time communication, allowing users who may not be tech savvy to customize their app for ease of use. Shaposhnikov said it integrates school communications with first responders, links popular technology and services that already exist, and saves schools and school districts money.

“Right now, schools have several different programs,” Shaposhnikov said. “This is just like Remind, it’s just like Edmodo, it’s just like Google Docs. It’s all in one.”

How it works

FrandMe links services from assignments and communications between teachers and students, teachers and parents, principals and parents or any combination thereof.

In addition to common academic-related communications, there are codes that teachers, students or administrators can select if there is an emergency or an issue that might not require first responders but will require school security or to notify parents.

In the event of an emergency, enabling the “code red” function in the app would notify dispatchers and emergency responders directly without going through a 911 call center. Each device connected to the system is geo-tagged, notifying dispatchers and first responders where the code red was called from, including what floor on a building.

Shaposhnikov said this will save vital minutes and eliminate confusion as to where the emergencies are happening. As was the case in Parkland, 911 calls were routed to a dispatch center in the neighboring city of Coral Springs but since the Broward Sheriff’s Office handles police services for Parkland, dispatchers in Coral Springs had to then call the county’s dispatchers.

According to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission members, call transfers can discourage callers and add an average of 30 seconds to the response time.

“When the call is transferred, it inherently raises issues and concerns and can cause problems,” said Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, the commission's chairman. “They say, ‘Hang on a second, I’m going to transfer you to someone else,’ and you have to tell your story again to somebody else because that’s what happens when calls are transferred. When a person says hold on, a good part of my experience is the caller hangs up.”

FrandMe relies on existing location data from Google Maps, and when an alarm is triggered through the app, school administrators decide who gets informed of the alert and where it came from. In the event of an emergency, it can also inform parents where to go so as not to interfere with first responders arriving on the scene.

“Our system is very customizable,” Shaposhnikov said.

“A lot of systems are written one way. You put four walls in and that’s the four walls you have to work in. Our system is customizable to every single school. Every school is different. Some schools tell us ‘we do not want our system to go to any dispatch, we have three officers on campus, we only want them to receive the push notification.’ Another may say ‘we have our own police department, we want you to communicate with their dispatch.’”

Alerts can also be customized to minimize inaccurate or outdated information from getting to other teachers, students or parents.

“One group said ‘we don’t want ongoing notifications to come from anyone but us and we want the notification to go out as ‘school in lockdown,’ period,’” said Debi Davis, FrandMe’s COO. “It’s individualized — also, what the codes are. Code red is the only one that interfaces with the police. It’s a fire, it’s an intruder or something significant. All the other ones, the schools can determine.”


Shaposhnikov said the price of the program will depend on how many schools end up using it, with package deals for districts buying the service for multiple schools and discounts available for schools in low-income communities or that have budget constraints. And the cost does not vary by number of teachers, students or features that they choose to use, with the exception of highly customized sites beyond the templates offered.

“It’s $6,000 that we would like to get from private schools,” he said. “But when it comes to districts, and a district says, we want to give you 200 to 300 schools, the price has to change. We have to be on their budget. Depending on their budget, we have to help them out.”

Shaposhnikov and Davis said compared to similar services, FrandMe is more affordable.

Dimitry Shaposhnikov, founder and president of FrandMe, and Debi Davis, operations officer at FrandMe.
Dimitry Shaposhnikov, founder and president of FrandMe, and Debi Davis, operations officer at FrandMe. (FrandMe/Courtesy)

“They’re getting a public website, they’re getting unlimited teacher websites, the teachers no longer have to be in a position where their personal email address and their personal phone is now the communication tool with families,” Davis said. “Now they’re able to handle all of that privately.”

FrandMe will also transfer data from old systems to theirs at no cost and if a school or district decides it no longer wants to continue using them, they give the data back at no cost to the users.

FrandMe is not allowed to disclose which specific schools or districts have already purchased their system for security reasons.

“We’re working with four states,” Davis said. “We’ve got two charter groups that we’re doing testing locations, like three testing locations that will expand to 200 locations, with 75 in Florida and then there’s other ones that are outside of Florida.”

There are schools in Florida, New York and Oregon already using the service and Shaposhnikov said there is a pilot program so schools, school districts, teachers, administrators, parents and first responders can see what the experience is like before fully signing on and provide input to the company.

Davis said they are trying to contract with schools and school districts in South Florida this month, but she could not offer details beyond that.

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Austen Erblat
South Florida Community News

Austen Erblat is a reporter covering various communities in Broward and Palm Beach counties for the Sun Sentinel Media Group. He has covered music, politics and environmental issues for regional and national papers, magazines and blogs. He graduated from Florida Atlantic University, where he was news editor and managing editor of the student paper.