Wireless panic alarms connected to police via a two-way microphone and equipped with a GPS will soon be available for distribution to all schools in Nassau County, County Executive Edward Mangano said Tuesday.
Citing the tragedies at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut and the recent school shooting at a Nevada middle school, Mangano said the alarms, five per school, will be distributed free as part of a countywide plan to boost school security.
The small alarms can be held by educators or staff and will enable schools to communicate directly with the Nassau County Police Department's Communications Bureau. The GPS will help authorities responding to emergencies. The two-way microphone can be turned off only by police.
"It is unfortunate we have to plan to be prepared but this is the world we live in today," Mangano said at a news conference at Carle Place High School.
Nassau County First Deputy Police Commissioner Thomas Krumpter said the device will allow law enforcement to obtain "real-time information that is accurate. You can't put a price on that."
Letters about the program are going to school officials to let them know the alarms are available. The districts will work with police to determine who holds the devices in the schools, Mangano said.
The units cost $150 each and about $12 a month to run. Mangano said the devices have been tested and could be in schools by the end of November. The panic button is silent and when pushed, immediately connects with police. It runs parallel to the 911 system and will be considered a priority call.
Educators applauded the measure. "We welcome this initiative. One thing we have learned over time is seconds save lives, so if the police can get to an emergency situation . . . and immediately know where to go because of the GPS system, why would a school not want to be a part of this?" said David Feller, superintendent of North Merrick schools and president of the Nassau County Council of School Superintendents.
County officials said the panic alarms will "complement" the active-shooter program already authorized by Mangano as part of an ongoing law-enforcement effort to address possible active-shooter scenarios. The county also has partnered with Nassau BOCES, providing law enforcement with camera feeds and digitized floor plans for all Nassau schools that wish to participate.
Feller said he plans to use the device in his district. He also said he would share information about the alarms with his counterparts in Suffolk County.
Carle Place senior Alec Visslailli said the devices will help students feel secure. "A lot of things can happen in any town and the faster we can get to 911 the better and more secure the students in this high school will feel," he said.