After mass shootings in schools, officials and terrified parents often search for new ways to keep children safe.
There are proposals for armed guards, weapon detectors, intense security protocols and technical devices. After the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings in 2012, Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano promised handheld panic alarms for local schools. The problem, however, was that such systems generally aren’t affordable or workable, and they won’t necessarily stop a determined shooter.
But smart changes can be made to improve law enforcement responses. Having moved away from panic alarms, the Nassau County Police Department is implementing an app-based alarm and response system that balances affordability and caution.
Certain school officials will have an “active shooter” icon on smartphones that can initiate a 911 call, send text messages to police, sound an alarm inside the police department’s 911 center, and share information and displays from live cameras. The system will also allow the police to lock and unlock doors in schools.
The system will be provided at no cost to schools, which in many cases have paid for new camera systems and broadband capability with funds from Nassau BOCES. So far, about 20 of the county’s 56 districts say they will go live with the app by the end of September. At $1.5 million, the program is about half as expensive as the panic alarm plan. Police officials say other districts are signing on quickly, and they believe colleges and private schools will also join in.
In an emergency, good information and fast response matter. This is a promising way to keep students safe and our fears at bay. — The editorial board