Written by Betsy Abraham Thursday, 07 November 2013 00:00
A day after last month’s Sparks, NV middle school shooting, Nassau County officials announced a new panic alarm program which will allow each school in the county to connect directly to the Nassau County Police Department in case of an emergency.
Despite the publicity behind this county-sponsored program, information provided to the Garden City Public School District has been scant according to Superintendent of Schools Dr. Robert Feirsen.
“Outside of the press release announcing the panic button initiative, the specifics of when this will take place, who will receive the devices, and the costs involved, we have received no further information,” Dr. Feirsen said.
“The schools in Nassau County are a safe place, and will remain a safe place,” said County Executive Ed Mangano at a press conference at Carle Place High School last month. “Our planning and communication has increased dramatically in the past few years, culminating in this very important two-way communicator, (which) is a very important step forward in protecting our students, teachers and administrators.”
The county will be providing five Live Button 24 Freedom devices at no charge to any school that wishes to participate in the program. Districts will work with the police department to determine the best personnel to carry the wireless device, which is less than three inches long and can fit easily on a key chain or in a pocket. In case of an emergency situation, someone would just have to hold the SOS button on the device for four seconds, and would instantly be connected to the police department’s communications bureau, bypassing 911 dispatch as a priority call. Equipped with a microphone and speaker, the alarm also serves as a two-way communicator.
Another benefit of the Life Button 24 Freedom device is that it can provide the police department with GPS coordinates, so emergency personnel will know exactly where to go.
“It acts as a cell phone, but the difference is, it automatically goes to 911’s computer system and you have a two-way line of communication and a tracking system, so (police officers) know where you are,” says Joe Ingegno, owner of Life Button.
The Village of Garden City has its own police force and as such is in constant contact with the school district according to the superintendent. In addition, the board of education is constantly looking to tweak and upgrade security and safety for all of it students.
“We have a great relationship with the Village of Garden City Police and the Nassau County Police. Communication between the district and the police is excellent,” Dr. Feirsen explained. “We are absolutely interested in the new devices and how best to use them for the benefit of the school community. We are in the process of updating several components of our safety and security measures including the installation of additional cameras, and new classroom door locks. We are also upgrading our building-level PA systems so emergency announcements can be made from any classroom phone. We continue to work very closely with the Village and Nassau County Police to ensure that our safety procedures are state-of-the-art. Student safety is our first priority.”
“When you have a dynamic situation, getting accurate real-time information is priceless,” said First Deputy Nassau County Police Commissioner Tom Krumpter. “This allows us to respond very quickly, and provides real time intelligence that can help officers as they come to the scene.”
The alarm is battery operated and must be recharged every four to five days. According to Ingegno, the button has already proven successful for other clients, such as executives, money carriers, and battered women programs, that may require emergency responders.
School districts will have the option of whether or not to incorporate the panic alarms into their schools, but both Westbury and Carle Place superintendents and administrators are on board.
The Life Button 24 Freedom is just one more way that school districts have amped up security in the past several years. In addition to security personnel and cameras throughout the schools, other school districts including Carle Place have joined the BOCES BoTie Network, which allows law enforcement instant access to floor plans and camera feeds.
Each device costs $150, with a monthly fee of about $12. Nassau County will be able to provide them to schools for free, by discontinuing the antiquated CAPER (Criminal Activity Police Enforcement Records System) device. The Life
Button 24 Freedom device is not only being used in schools, but also in different capacities throughout the police department.
“[Discontinuing CAPER] will more than offset the cost of the monthly fee for each school,” Mangano said.
The police department is buying 2,000 devices and schools wishing to participate in the program would have their five panic alarm devices by the end of November.
Dave Gil de Rubio contributed to this story