Authorities will hold a series of active shooter drills using new video technology that directly links schools to Suffolk police, in the wake of a pair of mass shootings that killed at least 31 people last weekend.
“As a department, we are constantly evaluating what we are doing and opportunities to improve,” said Suffolk Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart at a news conference Thursday at the department’s Special Patrol Bureau in Ronkonkoma “Our officers are always training for the unthinkable.”
The drills will test a new department initiative called SHARE, or Sharing to Help Access Remote Entry, which links closed circuit television cameras in schools to police headquarters. The cameras are visible in the department’s Real Time Crime Center, giving responding officers a bird’s-eye view into the school during a mock threat for the first time during a drill, police said. Students will not be on-site.
The drill, the first of which will be at the West Babylon school district, will also utilize the RAVE Panic Button, a mobile app that delivers data to 911 dispatchers and first responders.
Five of Suffolk’s school districts and two BOCES have signed onto SHARE, officials said.
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said the county has already held 26 active shooter training classes for county employees, training nearly 1,900 employees.
“We have to prepare for every situation and every scenario and that’s exactly what we’re doing,” said Bellone. “Our obligation is to make sure we’re doing everything we can to keep our residents safe should God forbid one of these active shooter scenarios happen here.”
Chief of Department Stuart Cameron, who Bellone said spearheaded the department’s active shooter preparation, said the department’s technology will save lives.
“It can really help us streamline our response,” said Cameron. “By looking at the video . . . we can get our officers to the problem as soon as possible.”
A mass shooting Saturday at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, left 22 people dead. Early Sunday, a shooter in Dayton, Ohio killed nine people in a nightclub district.
Like Suffolk, authorities in Nassau County have held scores of active shooter drills at schools, hospitals and shopping malls in recent years as a series of mass shootings have taken place around the country. They include shootings at a music festival in Las Vegas, a nightclub in Orlando, Florida and just last week at a garlic festival in Gilroy, California.
“We have trained all of the school superintendents and principals on preparedness and active shooter protocol,” Nassau County Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder said in a statement. “Moving forward, we will continue to provide enhanced patrols around areas of concern and we are in the process of scheduling future active shooter drills to enhance training.”
Yiendhy Farrelly, the superintendent in West Babylon, said employees in the district are “comforted” by the forethought and planning into security protocols at the schools.
“It is certainly a scary world that we live in,” said Farrelly.
CORRECTION: The number of Suffolk school districts that have signed onto SHARE was incorrect in an earlier version of this story.