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Feb 5, 2019 2:40 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

RAVE Panic Button Initially Excludes East End Police Departments, Requiring A Work-Around For Schools

Southampton Town Police Chief Steven Skrynecki. PRESS FILE
Feb 12, 2019 11:00 AM

Montauk School Superintendent Jack Perna installed the RAVE Panic Button—a mobile smartphone application that allows users to instantly notify law enforcement of emergency situations at schools—on his personal cellphone last year.

Fortunately, he hasn’t had to use it—and he said that if an emergency situation were, in fact, to arise, he would dial 911 rather than use the app.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone authorized a $2 million bond last July to cover licensing for the app to be used by school officials all across the county. But the initial implementation of the RAVE Panic Button program ignored issues with compatibility and lack of connections to local East End police departments, leaving it all but useless for the region’s school districts.

Currently, if an East End school administrator were to push the panic button, a distress call would be sent to the Suffolk County Police Department’s dispatch center in Yaphank, rather than to the local departments on the East End. That works for other schools in the county, for which Suffolk County Police provide law enforcement on the local level, but not on the East End, where village and town departments provide that service and are not dispatched via Yaphank.

“I think it was a bit of an oversight,” Suffolk County Legislator Bridget Fleming acknowledged on Monday.

Mark Hannan, director of school safety and security for the Southampton School District, expressed similar concerns on Monday, noting that a call, upon being re-routed from Suffolk County Police to the Southampton Village Police Department, also could be mistakenly transferred to Southampton Town Police dispatchers.

“That’s initially why we’re reluctant to go with the RAVE app,” he said.

In recent weeks, Ms. Fleming has met with several East End police chiefs, including Steven Skrynecki of Southampton, Michael Sarlo of East Hampton and David Hegermiller of Riverhead, to discuss and potentially mitigate both Mr. Hannan’s and Mr. Perna’s concerns.

On Monday, Chief Skrynecki pointed to a potential solution offered by RAVE, the app’s manufacturer, that would automatically redirect the call to local law enforcement—for an undisclosed cost, which neither he nor Ms. Fleming could estimate.

Chief Skrynecki said that the amount would vary based on the police department’s number of dispatch terminals as well as how many local school districts sign up for the service. The school districts themselves would receive the service at no cost.

Ms. Fleming declined to offer specifics about which East End school districts have signed up to date, offering only that “no one has said that they specifically don’t want to participate.”

As for the added cost—which would include contract and licensing fees—she said that the Suffolk County Legislature is currently ironing out the details of possibly absorbing the costs associated with creating a local police connection on the East End. “That is a possibility that’s on the table,” Chief Skrynecki agreed.

In the meantime, he said that the Southampton Town Police Department has implemented a failsafe. He said that smartphone users authorized to use the app can program specific phone numbers to be notified in the event of an emergency.

In September, 11 of the Jackson Avenue police department’s patrol cars were equipped with smartphones—each with an individual phone number, which could be programmed into the app. Chief Skrynecki said that his executive staff, including himself, have also offered their phone numbers to East End superintendents to bridge the gap created by the “oversight.”

Any activation of the panic button would alert all of the patrol cars, as well as the executive staff at the town department. “It wouldn’t be without some merit,” he said of the smartphone application.

Those designated to have access to the app would, however, be up to the discretion of each school district’s superintendent or school safety director, according to Chief Skrynecki. However, he said he suspected that many would seek police council when determining accessibility.

Mr. Perna, who said that he would “absolutely” be interested in the panic button service once the issues are resolved, added that he would likely consult with Chief Sarlo prior to giving all staff access. “Whatever Chief Sarlo thinks is best, I will do,” he said.

Chief Sarlo did not return several phone calls and emails seeking comment.

Mr. Hannan, however, said that he is comfortable allowing all of the Southampton-based school’s staff access to the service. He was unsure whether students would be able to log into the app to alert police.

An exact release date for the app has not yet been determined. However, Ms. Fleming stressed that “by the time the schools would implement it, this concern will be addressed, and you will have the closest police department notified.

“I’m certain that the chiefs on the East End are committed to the safety of the schools and they’re going to do everything they can,” she continued. “Let’s hope they never have to use it.”

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lolololol lmao 2 million for a panic button? Who is the owner related too? Every kid, teacher, administrator has a cell phone. How does a panic button help? County clown show
By chief1 (2718), southampton on Feb 13, 19 10:16 PM