John Kessler began his career in law enforcement in 2001. He joined the police department in Perry, Georgia where he served as a field training officer and drug interdiction officer. His second year there, he was nominated by his peers as Officer of the Year.
In 2006, John married the love of his life, Alison. While John enjoyed changing lives through law enforcement, Alison dreamt of changing young lives through teaching. Shortly after their wedding, the couple moved to Birmingham, Alabama so that Alison could continue her education with more opportunities. John began working at the Alabaster Police Department outside of Birmingham. Life was going well and the couple was happy.
John began serving in a local high school as the school resource officer and it was there that he decided it was time he needed to go back to school in order for his life to make the greatest impact. He decided to work towards his associate degree, but nothing else, at a nearby brick-and-mortar college.
While John and Alison were facing some difficult financial times at this point, John got in his car to drive to an evening class but discovered he had no gas in his car nor money in the bank. He transferred the fuel from his lawn mower to his car in order to drive to class.
“Not going was not an option,” John says now. “Success is always the only option.”
He called this experience, which could discourage just about anyone, a “turning point.” It was at that moment, while working 65-plus hours per week, attending night classes, not having the resources to even fill up his gas tank, and supporting his wife’s scholastic and professional goals, that John decided he would not stop at his associate degree. He wanted to continue on to earn his bachelor’s degree… but he needed to find a better way to do it.
He soon found an advertisement for Columbia Southern University and John says the rest was history. He completed his Bachelor’s of Science degree in Criminal Justice Administration and almost immediately went on to complete his Master’s degree in Business Administration and Finance in 2012.
At this point, the economy around John was suffering and he realized how beneficial his studies in business had become in his everyday life. “Buying a car, budgeting our finances, all these decisions were made easier and more understandable by applying my newfound business knowledge,” he says.
During this time, John and Alison had their son, John Lewis. On December 14, 2012, while working as the high school resource officer, John got the news of the fatal shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. His son was two years old and John immediately thought of John Lewis’s safety.
“Hearing news like that, you can’t help but think of your own children. Parents always want to believe their kids are safe,” John says.
The director of his son’s daycare asked John to walk through the facilities to test their panic button system and to assess the safety of the building. While in the building, John got on the phone with police dispatch before pressing the panic button. The first push of the button did not get through to police dispatch for two minutes; the second push of the button did not go through at all.
“The director’s and my jaw dropped in disbelief. I will never forget that moment for as long as I live. This outcome was unacceptable. ”
John immediately began searching for an alternative safety system and could find no good options for schools. Everything he found was either ineffective or lacked the intricate details that would be needed in a situation like the Sandy Hook shooting.
John’s solution? He would develop it himself.
“I had no money but success was my only option. I bounced my ideas off some people, swiped my credit card, and had a few investors for my 1.0 system.”
His original idea was just for his son’s daycare center. Over time, he realized he had developed something that could serve other avenues, as well.
John soon joined forces with who he calls an “IT genius,” Allan Wilson, who bought out the other investors and moved their entire operation in-house. That was when Community Response Systems (CRS) was born.
It took John and Allan three months to put on paper exactly how they wanted their system to function and how it would stand out from their competition. John describes his 1.0 version as a blueprint for what was to come.
“I knew we had something because no other company in our field was able to merge extensive information technology
expertise and law enforcement to form
a simple and effective solution. I wanted to find a safe solution for my children and community, and Allan bringing his IT knowledge expanded my original vision and functionality.”
Community Response Systems is a one-of-a-kind panic button system that initiates an alert to all users and local emergency responders with just one click of a button or a computer mouse. The alert then opens a chat room for real-time communication between all users to stay aware of changes and details in the situation.
John and his partner began installing systems in daycare centers, school districts, private businesses, medical offices, and municipal businesses.
“I realized that our software was so intricate and yet adaptable for all businesses and industries.”
John says his education allowed him to capitalize on his strengths. “I didn’t know what I was capable of until my knowledge and passion met,” he says looking back.
John acts as the CEO of Community Response Systems and is proud that his systems are present in companies and schools in five states so far. Always tapping into his law enforcement background though, he says, “The software is an unmatched tool but it all comes down to incident response. I am absolutely a fan of preventative safety measures like identification badges and visitor reports, but when those things are breached, what do we do? The most important factors are rapid notification and real-time communication. So many tragedies could have had a little bit better outcome could the means of communications at the scene been improved and broadcast over multiple channels.”
When asked about his success and how he got to this point of pride after experiencing some very low times, he responded with advice to others.
“The biggest thing is when you make a decision—any decision—go through with it. There will always be peaks and valleys but if you can learn to pivot, you will prosper.”
John and Alison live in Alabaster, Alabama
with their now five-year-old son, John Lewis,
and eight-month-old daughter, Gracen.
*To learn more about Community Response Systems, visit http://www.communityresponsesystems.com/