Considered an instantaneous pro-active method designed to thwart active shooters from injuring students, teachers and administrators during school hours – which comes in response to the tragic Sandy Hook shootings in Connecticut that killed 20 children and seven adults two years ago, the Nassau County Police Department is implementing a technology system in conjunction with school districts that allows school administrators to press an icon on their smartphones that alerts police at the highest levels to respond immediately to neutralize a threat within a school.
By linking to a school’s security cameras within the building to see what is going on at any moment, the communications division of the police department will also be able to lock and unlock doors in order to enter a specific doorway of the building and challenge any threats.
“It’s the most exciting piece of technology” yet because it’s in real time, Dr. Dominick Palma, superintendent of the Merrick School District, told Your NewsMag. He remarked that it takes the panic button FOP concept offered by the police department recently to a more specific level by not simply activating an alarm but by permitting police to see what is actually taking place within the building in real time as the action occurs.
Contractual obligations had bogged down implementation of the panic button, Dr. Palma explained.
He said the Merrick School District was part of an early pilot program in 2015 that created the technological links. He said that as part of a safety committee at the county police level, Chief of Department Steve Skrynecki was critical in developing the outreach after it was determined by technology vendor IntraLogic that it had sufficient capability for real-time mobile communications between schools and police communications departments.
“Chief of Department Skrynecki is to be commended for the work he has done,” Dr. Palma continued.
Dr. Palma said that, while an administrator would still call 911, the mobile app would automatically steer the call to the police communications command center, bringing up an alert that a crime was being committed.
Because the county police department and several school districts already have “memorandums of understanding” that permit police access to school security cameras inside and outside the schools, school cameras would be activated on a control panel and could determine precisely where the shooter is in the school.
James Saitta, director of school facilities, North Merrick School District, told Your NewsMag the system complements several new security measures the school has put in place over the last several years, including placing cameras at select spots.
In the process of uploading still photos of classrooms into the system, he cautioned that not all schools have cameras in their classrooms, and that the bulk of security cameras are located in areas where large crowds gather, such as doorways and gymnasiums, and hallways.
“By loading photos of school classrooms,” he continued, “police on the ground going toward the threat are informed of what is in the classroom, what its layout looks like and where a perpetrator could hide.”
Depending upon the type of doors a school has – such as heavy-laden doors with remote wireless capabilities, they could be remotely opened to allow police stealth access to surprise the shooter. “Remote access doors could be unlocked in the area where the shooter is,” without having to ram and break down doors to get in. Ramming a door “… gives a shooter an advantage because he now knows where the police are.”
He said doors featuring remote access will be on several school budgets in the future.
He said the beauty of the new mobile app is its real-time application, which will save lives because police get the information instantaneously and respond in real time. “Time saved means lives saved,” he concluded.
Dr. Joe Famularo, superintendent of schools for the Bellmore School District, and president of the Nassay County Council of School Superintendents, told Your NewsMag “Any way we can improve communications with the police will be a benefit to everyone.” He said the new mobile app would help police get access to the school’s cameras quickly, and even provide for access to its doors.
School districts such as Bellmore, North Bellmore, Merrick and North Merrick hope to have the app up-and-running by the end of September.