Case Study: Parkland, FL


This case study focuses on the events surrounding the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida on February 14, 2018. The main objective is to outline key events and showcase updates in mobile technology that can improve management of these types of events. This case study focuses on how new technology offerings can improve access to care and decrease response times. By improving the management of emergencies, the direct impact is to save valuable lives and improve school safety and workplace safety across the United States.

Florida School Shooting Details — February 14, 2018

On February 14, 2018, a former student opened fired inside a Parkland Florida high school. The gunman tried to fire at fleeing students from the building’s third-floor windows, but the high-impact windows didn’t shatter. The gunman set off fire alarms during the incident, luring hundreds of students out of their classrooms so he could open fire. After he fired several rounds the gunman dropped his weapon and hid among the crowd as students and faculty evacuated the facility. Police captured the shooter over an hour later in Coral Springs, located about a mile away from the school. Seventeen people were killed, 3 staff/adults and 14 children attending school on that day. Fourteen others were wounded in the shooting, including several with severe and life-threatening injuries sustained during the event.

Below is a timeline of events gathered from the Broward County Sheriff’s Office and other sources. The goal is to map out key responders, key communication and key timelines of the emergency event. What is clear is that cell phones and mobile devices were key in re-building the timeline and these devices plus social media were used during and after the event by those inside and outside the building or on campus.  

Recap of Events from Police/SWAT with the School Resource Officer (SRO)

NOTE: The school resource officer held his post outside of the school building.

  • Mr. Peterson initially “received a call of firecrackers — and not gunfire — in the area of the 1200 Building.”
  • In response to the firecracker call Mr. Peterson along “with Security Specialist Kelvin Greenleaf exited the 100 Building and ran north the couple of hundred yards to the 1200 Building.”
  • Upon arriving at 1200 Building Mr. Peterson “heard gunshots but believed that those gunshots were originating from outside of any of the buildings on the school campus.”
  • BSO trains its officers that in the event of outdoor gunfire one is to seek cover and assess the situation in order to communicate what one observes to other law enforcement.
  • Consistent with his training, Mr. Peterson “took up a tactical position between the 700-800 buildings corridor/corner.”
  • Mr. Peterson was the first BSO officer to advise BSO dispatch that he heard shots fired.
  • Mr. Peterson “initiated a ‘Code Red’ lockdown of the entire school campus.”
  • “The first police officer that arrived on-scene was from the Coral Springs Police Department.” Mr. Peterson informed this Coral Springs Police Officer that he “thought that the shots were coming from outside.” This Coral Springs Police Officer took up a tactical position (approximately twenty yards away from Mr. Peterson) behind a tree with his rifle.
  • “Radio transmissions indicated that there was a gunshot victim in the area of the football field,” which served to confirm Mr. Peterson’s belief “that the shooter, or shooters, were outside.”
  • Mr. Peterson had the presence of mind to have the school administrators go to the school’s video room to review the closed-circuit cameras to locate the shooter and obtain a description for law enforcement.
  • Mr. Peterson provided his keys to the Coral Springs SWAT team so that they could enter the 1200 Building.
  • Mr. Peterson “provided BSO SWAT Command with handwritten diagrams of the entire Stoneman Douglas campus for student evacuation.”
  • The police radio recordings showed that the Coral Springs police officers were the first to enter the school building after confirming that Broward County Sheriff’s Office deputies had not gone in.
  • As they cleared each of the building’s three floors, the officers described seeing shell casings on the floor and bullet holes in the windows. They warned that the suspect may have changed clothes after they reported finding a camouflaged jacket, ski mask, and backpack on the first floor.  On the third floor, officers said they found an AR-15 with a magazine still attached.
  • The officers found wounded victims and bodies, and they prioritized evacuating the wounded before allowing other students and teachers to leave. On the third floor, they said they shattered windows in some locked classroom doors because terrified students would not open doors. Cruz was arrested a few blocks away from the school. Evacuations continued well into the afternoon and evening.

Case Study Summary

Both the timeline and events recap shows the fragmented emergency management functions that occur during these types of chaotic events.

Shots fired reports were called in to 911 dispatch call centers, starting at 2:21 to 2:22 p.m. The emergency phone call transcripts clearly confirm the chaotic nature of this event. 

The 911 dispatch centers do their best to gather information from parents of children on the phone with their child (who is on lock down and told to be quiet) while other adults make 911 phone calls standing next to the parents who are trying to communicate with their child. 

Videos taken by students show cell phones actively using twitter and other means of communicating with the outside world. The media quickly becomes involved due to social media reports and the school district and administrators also must immediately deal with the press and media coverage. 

Staff members who have locked down the classrooms and are sheltering in place, do not have easy access to PCs or land line phones while hiding and staying quiet and mobile phone emergency management is not engaged. 

In this photo of the large campus, Building 12 is outlined in yellow.

In addition, the recap with the school resource officer (SRO) clearly illustrates how he had to hand draw maps of the campus for arriving initial law enforcement. SWAT team members first objective was to clear the scene of the shooter and without active communication on the status of in-house staff that are sheltered in place, the sweep takes a long period of time. 

Not until after SWAT has cleared the scene from the campus sweep is active emergency medical treatment commenced, prioritizing the wounded being cleared first. Once the wounded are cleared, full scale evacuation of students and staff not wounded occurs.

How EMMA Would Have Helped Make Minutes Matter for Parkland, FL


Clear continual communication inside to outside and roles/privileges controlling information flow to right administrators and decreasing panic


“Hot spot” location-aware EMMA map views by admin/SWAT/911 first responders;


Easy resource access by arriving 911/law enforcement on asset locations (stop the bleed kits or supplies for severe bleeding), campus maps, and floor plans.

clear Directions & scripts

Direction and script access by administrators for controlling public relations and keeping the calm;

Parent notifications

Clear parent and student communication, decreasing social media use/press coverage;

Improved timelines

Improved timelines for response and care to all affected, due to continual EMMA push notifications and tools inside EMMA Admin portal for administrator use and user communication.