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Student safety app not linked to East End police departments

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Seven months ago, Suffolk County officials pledged $2 million toward new safety measures for public and private schools countywide.

The bond funded licensing fees for school districts to install the RAVE Panic Button, a mobile smartphone application that allows users to instantly notify law enforcement of emergency situations, such as an active shooter, at schools.

But if an emergency situation were to arise in any of the five East End towns, most district officials would still dial 911.

The initial implementation of the RAVE Panic Button program ignored issues of incompatibility with, and lack of connections to, local police departments, rendering it all but useless for the five towns’ 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 dispatch center in Yaphank.

According to county officials, the panic button call is also routed to local dispatch centers, but without the technology in place, local law enforcement is unable to view details that the app provides, such as the location within the school the call is coming from.

“I think it was a bit of an oversight,” Suffolk County Legislator Bridget Fleming (D-Noyak), who represents Shelter Island, acknowledged after meeting with local law enforcement entities earlier this month.

A spokesperson for Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said county personnel met with representatives from all East End Public Safety Answering Points to address concerns over implementation of the RAVE Panic button.

“Suffolk County continues to have an active and open dialogue with our East End partners and is committed to ensuring the success of this app in school districts across the county,” the spokesperson said.

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

The Shelter Island Police Department and school officials have been working closely and a “live” test of the system is due soon, according to Chief Jim Read and Walter Brigham, the school’s information technology specialist.

Mr. Brigham was charged with showing school staff members how to download and use the security app on their cellphones and all are in good shape, the teacher said in a telephone interview Monday.

It’s true that if an emergency arose this week on the Island, school officials would dial 911.

Mr. Brigham confirmed that just before the February school break, the installation of the apps on cellphones and training was at about 60 percent, and Mr. Brigham said it has since progressed.

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