School safety measure signed into law
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone signed the Rapid Response Project — which will streamline and centralize emergency response to K-12 schools within Suffolk County for all hazard-type emergencies — into law at Kings Park High School on Monday, July 23.
As part of the project, the RAVE mobile application “would provide law enforcement and first responders an enhanced ability to respond and react to an active shooter incident or emergency,” he explained.
The panic button is essentially a mobile application on a smart phone device that can quickly alert authorities of an active shooter or emergency situation. It also comes with a variety of features, according to Bellone, including the ability for fast response while in communication with on-premise faculty, staff and school resource officers and the ability to locate users.
According to Legis. Rob Calarco (D-Patchogue), the unique thing about the app is that the county already owns a portion of the licensing for a fixed price, thus allowing them to provide it at no cost to as many interested school districts and local libraries as possible.
“In light of all the tragedies this year, this app doesn’t just have to be used for an active shooter, it has [the ability to deal with] a whole host of fire and medical situations,” he said. “It runs through our [Fire, Rescue & Emergency Services] department, giving a direct link to police and first responders, and schools and employees without having to be on a hard line, potentially putting people in the building at risk.”
The vote passed as of the July meeting, after Republican members of the Suffolk County Legislature originally voted down funding for the project in June. According to Calarco, they claimed they would not back the proposal because it was bundled with other safety measure bonds, despite being able to first vote for the individual appropriating resolutions prior to the bundled bond. In response, he said, they decided to put it forward as an individual bond, giving Republican legislators a chance to vote for it again. Twelve votes were needed for the $2 million in funding for the Rapid Response Project.
“We really wanted to have this out prior to the new school year,” he added.
“Public safety is always our top concern. It is the basic function of our government to make sure we keep our citizens safe,” said Bellone at the press conference. “And here we are talking about our most vulnerable — our kids — where they are being educated and where they should feel safe.”
The new legislation, Bellone explained, is a win for both parents, who feel schools should have the tools they need to keep children safe, and for police and first responders, by equipping them with the tools they need to do their jobs efficiently and effectively.
“Our schools are doing a great job. They all have safety plans worked on and developed with their community, but this is about providing them with all the tools they need to keep our kids safe,” he continued. “We are happy to sign this bill ahead of the 2018-19 school year. We hope to enroll and partner with as many school districts as possible.”
Almost a third of Suffolk County school districts have already signed up, including South Country. Both the Pat-Med and William Floyd school districts plan to enroll and are currently in communication with the county.
“The Rapid Response app, which we hope will never be used, will provide valuable information in real time to first responders in the event of an actual emergency,” said Kevin M. Coster, superintendent of the William Floyd School District. “We have been and will continue to be proactive in keeping our students and staff safe on a daily basis and appreciate the county partnering with school districts to be proactive in issues of school safety. Any measure that can shave off valuable minutes or even seconds is well worth it.”
“Schools have been asking for ways to assure parents with plans and protocols in place to take care of their children,” Calarco continued. “School safety isn’t something we should have to worry about, but, unfortunately, it’s something we do. We all have to make sure we do something to help. This is just one of the many tools the county is looking to provide school districts with.”
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