In a perfect world, no one would ever need the Lassy Project, an app and website designed to quickly notify people if a child goes missing. But we don’t live in a perfect world and children, such as 10-year-old Jessica Ridgeway, who was murdered in Westminster two years ago this month, can become victims. Ridgeway headed on foot to school one autumn morning, but didn’t make it to class. Ridgeway’s disappearance wasn’t made public until later that evening. According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, the first three hours are the most critical when locating a missing child, as 76.2 percent of abducted children who are killed are dead within three hours of the abduction. When Lassy Project’s founder, John Guydon, a Boulderite and father of three, heard what happened to Ridgeway, he wanted to do something to help missing children.

Here’s how it works: Parents download the free Lassy Project app to their smartphones or login to the Lassy Project website. Then, you build village of people (think: family, neighbors, teachers, coworkers; basically anyone who your child may come into contact with) who you would want notified immediately if you can’t find your child. Before an incident happens, you preload a photograph of your child along with basic details that could help someone recognize them. If your child went missing, you press the escalate button in your app and your entire village is notified that your child is missing along with his/her most recent GPS coordinates. Those who are contacted also have the ability to share the information by text, email, or on social media.

The Lassy Project is currently endorsed by 13 Colorado police departments and is active in nearly 2,000 zip codes. Jenny Starkey, director of communications and growth for the Lassy Project, says the more people can build their village ahead of time, the less time they’ll have to spend texting and making phone calls during an emergency—and the more people will be on the lookout within minutes of a child’s disappearance. “There are so many different scenarios where you can use the Lassy Project,” Starkey says. “It’s a utility in your pocket. You don’t have to waste time reaching out to specific people. It’s a tool that you hope you never have to use, but it is there if you do.”

Follow assistant editor Lindsey R. McKissick on Twitter at @LindseyRMcK.