Earlier today, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone was a guest on WSHU’s The Full Story with Ron Ropiak to discuss Suffolk County’s comprehensive school safety plan and the Rave Panic Button program provided to Suffolk schools.
AUDIO of the County Executive's remarks is available HERE.
A rush transcript of the County Executive's remarks is available below.
Ropiak: Today we’re talking about school safety and to start we’re talking with Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone. Mr. Bellone, thank you for your time, sir.
Bellone: Thank you, great to be with you.
Ropiak: We’re talking with you because you signed legislation for a two million dollar bond for Suffolk public and private schools to access a smart phone based app, and that app would alert authorities in the event of an active shooter or emergency situation. Is the app now available and being used?
Bellone: Yeah, absolutely, we introduced the application earlier this year, and it is now available in 90 percent of Suffolk County school buildings, so we’ve had a great partnership and great collaboration with our school districts. This is a top priority obviously for them. While they’re focusing on educating our kids, their safety is of the upmost importance on Suffolk County, and you know, the Suffolk County Police Department, that is their main focus, making sure that our kids are safe when they’re in their schools and getting their educations.
Ropiak: Was there a specific incident that prompted the creation of this?
Bellone: Well, you know, this is an issue that’s obviously been around for a long time and unfortunately every time we see another active shooter situation. It’s a learning experience for the police department who is constantly looking to adjust training and tactics and that’s happened over the years. But I think the Parkland shooting, for a variety of reasons, it really hit a nerve and touched the nation in a way that spurred additional action, and we’ve introduced a number of safety school measures. But we felt it was important for the county to take the lead in investing the resources necessary to provide this public safety resource to our school districts, and that’s exactly why we put that bond forward and made this available to every one of our schools in the county.
Ropiak: How does it work?
Bellone: Well, the key is in responding to any active shooter situation is speed. These situations all happen when you look at them very quickly and the reality is that in these scenarios seconds matter, it makes the difference between life and death and many instances. So anything we can do to decrease response time is a priority, so this allows school districts to give this application to staff, teachers, administrators, security personnel, anyone they deem appropriate. And, if God forbid, an active shooter situation arises they could utilize that app, go right to the touch active shooter. It puts you right through, jumps the queue in 911, puts you right to the front, its already indicated an active shooter situation, immediately going to see building plans. All of the preset information up and available to the 911 operator and the dispatching happens immediately saving time now with responding officers, who are also going to be able to be in communications with people who are on the ground, who are inside the building who will be able to communicate via this app. And again, that will be able to direct police personnel to the right location, the right entry points, understanding what’s happening in the building all of those things that will help save time which is critical in these scenarios.
Ropiak: Just to clarify, would students have access to this?
Bellone: No, students don’t have access to this. It’s the school districts that make the determination about which personnel that they want to have capable of utilizing the app.
Ropiak: Last question, if I can, can you share with us other school safety measures that you’re thinking about or planning to purpose or implement in the future?
Bellone: Well, I said this is something we’ve been working on for a number of years. Prior to this we’ve implemented a hotline, we we’re working on implementing a camera system that would give us eyes on the school. We implemented a whole multi-pronged school safety plan that involved additional patrols, a pilot where we set up police relief points where they’re changing shifts, school resource officer training, done hundreds of table tops exercises in training in schools. So it’s really a comprehensive approach to school safety the we’re taking. Unfortunately we’re at this point in our country where we really have no other choice than to make sure we’re doing everything we can to protect our kids.
Ropiak: Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, Thank you sir we appreciate your time.
Bellone: Thank you so much.