By Akanksha Kar and Karina Gerry
Suffolk County spent $2 million this June for a license to access the Rave panic button application, which alerts the police in the event of an active shooter and other emergencies.
The Rave “Panic Button” app allows users to contact police, and first responders with a click of a button, according to the Rave Mobile Safety company’s brief. The 9-1-1 operator will automatically get access to the exact location, including floor and room number of the person who is calling, as well as their name and number in order to reduce the emergency response time.
“Normally when you call 9-11, you have to tell the operator your name, your contact information and your location,” Bill Lindsay III, the Suffolk County legislator for the 8th District, said. “With this app, you save time because that information is readily made available through the app.”
Lindsay feels the $2 million is a justified amount to ensure the public’s safety.
“It’s being made available to every school district and library in Suffolk County for free,” Lindsay said. “Teachers administration, and custodians have access to it.”
However, not everyone was in favor of purchasing the Panic App. Legislator Robert Trotta was hesitant from the start.
“I wouldn’t say I’m opposed to the app exactly,” Trotta said. “I’m more opposed to spending $2 million on a glorified speed dial. Why are we spending money, when the company itself says don’t rely on this to call 9-1-1? Isn’t that suspect in itself? If we’re spending $2 million we better get it right.”
Steve Bellone, Suffolk County Executive, agrees with Lindsay and believes that the app is another important tool in their comprehensive approach to school safety. “The app will help improve police response time and the effectiveness of that response in the event of an active shooter situation,” Bellone said.
‘Rave Mobile Safety,’ The parent company of “Panic Button,” initially created the app to cut down the emergency response time for school shootings.
“[The] Idea came from the fact that in an active shooter situation, only 31% last longer than 5 minutes, the majority of the time first responders are not able to respond in time,” Katharine Dahl, a spokesperson for Rave Mobile Safety said.
Out of the 62 school districts in Suffolk County, 30 currently use the app.
“Each district determines the protocol and how the app will be used and who is granted access,” Bill Lindsay III, the Suffolk County legislator for the 8th District, said.
In Kings Park Central School District, the faculty have been using the RAVE app since this summer, and Superintendent Timothy Eagen, believes that the app is an effective way to notify the right people and emergency medical staff in the building, of the situation efficiently.
“We performed an active real time test in the first week of school where in each building we get an alert, so the county, 9-1-1 and local emergency medical services got a chance to practice,” Eagen said. “The alert is almost instantaneous.”
While 30 school districts in Suffolk currently have access to the app, it isn’t just for active shooter situations. The app has five emergency call buttons, for fire, medical emergencies, an active shooter button, 9-1-1 and the police.
The app however, is only accessible to faculty and staff. This ensures that the emergency can be dealt with quickly and professionally and fulfils the role of the app to reduce as much time as possible.
“Keeping our schools in Suffolk County safe is of paramount importance to the Suffolk County Police Department. Our department welcomes effective technology solutions to assist us in this regard, including the Rave application,” a spokesperson for Suffolk County Police Department said in an email.
The Suffolk County Legislature voted in July to purchase the app, after Suffolk County Department of Fire, Rescue and Emergency Services came to the legislature to speak in favor of Rave Security apps, which the County has been using for 5 years.
“In June, after an increase in school shootings and other incidents within the school settings, we were asked to expand the program into the K-12 school systems,” Joel Vetter, Chief of Suffolk County Fire, Rescue and Emergency Services, said.