NEW BERLIN - As bullets flew through a subdivision south of Eisenhower High School, police engaged an electronic warning system to inform families they needed to immediately seek shelter.
The alert told residents that a basement was the safest place from the potentially deadly mayhem above.
To their surprise, authorities learned during the crisis that only two families in the immediate area were signed up to receive telephone-and email-generated alerts. Police wanted to warn families that the walls of their homes may not stop bullets.
"In that subdivision, I would guess there are at least 100 homes," said police Captain Michael Glider.
Officers at the scene said many families were home that April 7 evening when 51-year-old Stephen Condiff was on a shooting rampage.
The realization of how few families had signed up for alerts has touched off a drive to recruit people for the Alert Sense, Glider said.
Homes not safe
"Even handgun rounds will penetrate the exterior walls of a house and pose a definite danger to the occupants," Glider said. Those living in homes with siding are most at risk.
"Even a 0.22 caliber could go through that," he said, unless it is stopped by part of the wooden frame of the house.
"The house is not a safe haven," he said. "Everybody in that subdivision was in danger."
Two homes were hit by gunfire, according to a police report. New Berlin police were involved in a fire fight with Condiff who barricaded himself in his home and committed suicide.
Bullets in homes
A bullet lodged in the frame of one house and another was hit by one or two bullets. Police didn't know if release whether they had penetrated the interior of the home.
Condiff used a rifle, a shotgun and handguns, Glider said. Police returned fire and notified the Waukesha County Communications Center to put out the alert. Police had hoped for better coverage with Alert Sense.
"It's disappointing because landlines are disappearing and cellphones are proliferating," Glider said.
Cellphone users can receive alerts from Alert Sense if they register their cell numbers, he said. Signups are being accepted at http://bit.ly/2p8UnTO
New Berlin has used Alert Sense for less threatening situations, such as road closures, missing persons and a fugitive.
Muskego has used
Muskego has used Alert Sense.
For example, when authorities were pursuing a man a fleeing man, Muskego police asked the WCC to instruct residents to stay in their homes and lock their doors and windows, said Captain David Constantineau. At that time, Alert Sense was limited to land lines, he said. The fleeing suspect later crashed in Muskego, he said.
Normally, though, Muskego police send alerts via email and texts to those who signed up on the city's website to be notified, he said.