New York state has launched a pilot program that aims to improve communications and the sharing of information between participating schools and local first responders during an emergency.
The program will start with 20 schools in Rockland and Oneida counties later this month and will be executed by the New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services’ Office of Interoperable and Emergency Communications in conjunction with each county’s sheriff’s office or emergency management office.
“In an emergency, mere seconds can make all the difference in averting tragedy,” said New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo in a statement. “This new technology is yet another step we are taking to better protect students and ensure that first responders and law enforcement have access to quick and accurate information. I look forward to seeing the results of this pilot program.”
The pilot uses technology from Mutualink made specifically for school security.
During an emergency, school radios, phones and mobile devices are connected with emergency dispatch and responders arriving on scene, eliminating time-wasting telephone relays and message errors. At the same time, video from in-school cameras is securely shared, providing responders with critical information about what is going on.
Mutualink also provides a “panic button” feature, which, when activated by the school, gives law enforcement instant access to the schools’ communications. The project has been shown in live-shooter exercises, most notably by the Hartford, Conn., police department to cut response time in half.
“Accurate information and situational awareness are critical to any emergency situation,” DHSES Commissioner Jerome Hauer said in the release. “This platform will give law enforcement and emergency managers real time access to voice, video and data to make smart, timely decisions on how to respond rapidly to any emergency situation.”
Rockland and Oneida counties will each have 10 schools participating in the pilot. The schools were selected by their respective counties and provide a variety of testing grounds. Rockland County sits just outside of New York City and features a dense population that makes up part of the New York metropolitan area, while Oneida County is near Syracuse and includes a more rural environment.
“The primary responsibility of government is to provide for the safety of our residents and none are more important than our children,” Rockland County Sheriff Louis Falco said. “This project will allow our schools to share real time audio, video and data with law enforcement at the county, town and village levels, to respond to incidents in the most effective manner possible, as they work to mitigate an emergency situation.”
Added Rockland County Executive Edwin Day, “As both a County Executive and a father, I am pleased that we are working together with New York State to protect our children. With this pilot project, for the first time we will utilize the latest technology to improve communications and the flow of information between schools and first responders during times of emergency. If Mutualink K-12 shows the expected positive results, I would love to see it expand to all of our schools.”