County officials hope new two-way panic alarms will soon be a staple in all Nassau County schools to provide a direct line to police in the event of an active-shooter situation, Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano said Oct. 22.
Four silent alarms – attached to wearable lanyards – will soon be available to every school in Nassau County. Schools interested in participating will obtain the two-way communicators, which work over a cell phone network, free of charge to them. The county will pick up the cost through a grant program.
“It’s unfortunate we have to plan to be prepared, but this is the world we live in today,” Mangano said at Carle Place High School during a Tuesday news conference announcing the initiative. “This is an important life-saving device.”
Officials hope the alarms will complement the county’s active shooter program. Police already have access to camera feeds and floor plans through BOCES participating schools. Law enforcement officials say the new alarms will be an invaluable resource because the devices will allow police to listen-in during an active-shooter situation.
When a school employee presses the pendent, they are immediately connected to a police dispatcher. The devices also keep an open line with the county’s 911 call center. Authorities said the ability to provide real-time audio and the capability of communicating with someone in the middle of a school-shooting melee is instrumental while tactical teams work to make entry into the building.
First Deputy Police Commissioner Thomas Krumpter said the calls received through the alarms will be given priority through the county’s communications bureau and will allow a police dispatcher to relay pertinent information to responding officers as it happens.
“When you have a dynamic situation, getting real-time information that’s accurate…you can’t put a price on that,” he said. “It allows us to respond very quickly in order to address any situation.”
David Feller, the Superintendent of the North Merrick School District said his district will join the program as soon as the devices are available. “I think one thing we’ve learned over time is seconds save lives…this technology will help police respond more quickly to emergencies.”
Feller also said he understands concerns from community members that the devices may be pressed for non-emergency situations or incidents that wouldn’t warrant such a vast police response.
“I want to assure people they will not be used haphazardly,” he said. "We will treat them just as seriously as we do making any 911 call and they will only be in the hands of authorized administrators and key staff who will receive some kind of training.”
According to Mangano, the devices cost a flat rate of $150 and then a $12 per-month fee for the service. They will be available to schools county-wide beginning later this month.