Suffolk police unveil school emergency hotline

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Suffolk County unveiled a Sandy Hook-inspired hotline yesterday, which officials say will improve police response time in school shootings.

The School Active Violence Emergency, or SAVE, hotline bypasses a dispatcher by connecting the caller to a supervisor with the police department's 911 center.

Once the call is received, a special alarm sounds, informing a police supervisor that a school shooting -- or other crisis -- is occurring, shedding seconds off the normal emergency call, officials said.

"It provides instant communication," Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said after a news conference in which the system was demonstrated at police headquarters in Yaphank. "As a parent sending a daughter to school, I would be comfortable knowing a system like this is in place."

Schools interested in the hotline must get approval from their respective school boards, and then apply through the police department. School districts are responsible for paying for their own phones -- which cost from $120 to $200 each -- and installation.

Suffolk officials say the hotline would be available to any school, including universities, in the county police jurisdiction early in the school year.

Suffolk police would train school officials on shooting scenarios and strategically place the phones throughout a school. Schools would provide floor plans and other campus details that would help officers upon their arrival.

"This is something we haven't had before, and it really saves lives," said Enrico Crocetti, superintendent of the Mount Sinai school district, who called in to help show how supervisors would respond to the emergency call. "Why wouldn't you do this? It's practical and reasonable."

County Legis. Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai), chairwoman of the legislature's education committee, authored legislation passed in February to conduct a feasibility study to examine the installation of emergency phone systems in schools.

Anker, who says at least three schools are interested in the program, said it was inspired by the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings in December, in which 20 students and six staff members were killed.

"We pursued this idea [because] . . . this is something that can add an additional safety measure to our schools," Anker said.

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