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Suffolk exec: Many public schools are getting panic alarm app

The cellphone system that alerts 911 and other authorities to emergency situations is on track to be used in most of Long Island's public schools.

County Executive Steve Bellone honored Kings Park on Tuesday as the first school district in Suffolk to implement the RAVE Panic Button Mobile App, which was introduced in the county earlier this year. The cellphone system allows teachers and administrators to quickly alert authorities about an active-shooter situation or other emergency.  (Credit: News 12 Long Island)

Ninety percent of public school districts in Suffolk County have signed up to use the RAVE Panic Button Mobile App since it was introduced earlier this year, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said Tuesday.

At the push of a button, the smartphone system allows teachers and administrators to call 911 and simultaneously alert other authorities about an active-shooter situation or other emergency event. It also provides up-to-date information that first responders may need, such as the layout of a school building.

With many Suffolk school districts set to implement the app, the system soon will be in use in most of Long Island's public schools.

Nassau County introduced the RAVE app to its public schools in 2016. Fifty of the county's 56 districts now have the system up and running, plus 12 private schools, houses of worship and three libraries, police department spokesman Det. Lt. Richard LeBrun said.

"We are in 90 percent of all school buildings in Nassau County," he said.

Bellone made the announcement at Kings Park High School, where he honored the district for being the first in Suffolk to implement the county’s most recent investment in school safety technology.

"Today is another step forward in protecting our schools," he said, adding later that the app enhances "our ability to respond quickly and to effectively neutralize a potential threat."

In Suffolk County, 64 school districts have signed up for the RAVE app out of 68 systems, plus the Western Suffolk BOCES and Eastern Suffolk BOCES regional districts and the Little Flower system for children with special needs. Of those, 24 districts have fully activated the app, 12 are in the training and testing phase, and 28 are in the process of building out their RAVE facility profiles.

In addition,11 private schools have signed up to utilize the Rave Panic Button Mobile App, with three fully deployed, four in the training phase, and four that have opted in and are working on their facility profile.

Concerns about school safety have been amplified since mass shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on Feb. 14 and Santa Fe High School in Santa Fe, Texas, on May 18.

Across the Island, districts have further ramped up safety measures, including updates to building infrastructure, hiring of additional school security staff and boosting mental health services for students. Suffolk Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart said Tuesday the department has increased the number of patrol visits to schools, launched a text tip line dedicated solely to school safety threats and added training programs for school resource officers.

"The Suffolk County Police Department has been fully commited to ensuring the safety of our students at school," Hart said. 

In July, Bellone signed legislation for a $2 million bond to cover licensing of the RAVE Panic Button for public and private schools across the county.

Unlike a traditional emergency call, a RAVE alert does not go through a call log where other emergency calls are fielded. Instead, it is given its own call log and police are dispatched immediately. The system lets police access school security cameras so they can make a plan for an active shooter, as well as allowing communication between law enforcement and first responders with those on the school premises.

Suffolk Legis. Robert Trotta (R-Fort Salonga), a former Suffolk County detective who worked on the FBI Gang Task Force, said the RAVE Panic Button app is not foolproof. He noted that the company’s disclaimer says the service does not replace calling 911 and is “provided for convenience only.” 

"I'm not saying this is a bad thing, but … I don't want teachers and schools falling into a false sense of security," Trotta said. "It might not work, and they recommend to you to dial 911."

Adam Eisenman, RAVE Mobile Safety’s director of government affairs, noted that the app’s panic button does dial 911. The added benefit, he said, is that it also notifies on-site personnel, such as school resource officers, and gives more information to 911, including a caller’s GPS location and identity and a facility’s floor plans.

Kings Park Superintendent Timothy Eagen  said the district has used the app at least three times this school year "to quickly and seamlessly communicate with staff and emergency responders." Most recently, it was used to call an ambulance when a student was in medical distress, he said.

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