A ‘panic button’ app is coming to our schools and libraries

08/06/2018 6:00 AM |

North Fork schools and libraries are adding a new level of security to their buildings — an app.

The RAVE Panic Button app immediately dials 911 at the push of a button, while also sending notifications to other app users on site. The app has five emergency call buttons, one signaling a fire, one for a medical emergency, one for an active shooter, one to call police and one for other needs, its website reads.

The app can provide responders with important information, such as the layout of a building.

The Riverhead Free Library has been using the app since the winter, executive director Kerrie McMullen-Smith said.

According to a Newsday article, all 56 libraries in Suffolk County use the app. Similarly, all Nassau County libraries use the app, officials said.

Ms. McMullen-Smith said the Suffolk Cooperative Library System purchased the licensing fee for the library. She added that using the app is voluntary and that 34 of the library’s 72 staff members have opted to use it.

“It’s a really great thing to have for the safety of the staff and patrons in library,” Ms. McMullen-Smith said. “I’m grateful we haven’t had to actually use it, but I do think it’s good because if something is to happen in the building, and you’re not necessarily able to use a phone, a lot of times you panic and don’t think clearly, the app on the phone is a great thing to have to access.”

She added that the app uses GPS services to notify other app users about emergencies. For example, if there was an active shooter at the Riverhead Free Library, only those on library grounds would be notified, not all library staffers who have the app.

Another perk of the app is its ability to be used anywhere, she said.

“Say you’re on vacation in Florida, you’re at Disney World, and something happens you can still use the app there and first responders in that area will respond,” she said.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone announced last week that he signed legislation for a $2 million bond to cover the licensing of the RAVE Panic Button for interested public and private schools in Suffolk.

This announcement comes months after concerns surrounding school safety grew after numerous mass shootings this year, including at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, and Santa Fe High School in Santa Fe, Texas.

Local schools have shown interest in using the app, officials have said.

Mattituck-Cutchogue is still researching the app, officials said, while Greenport and Southold have put in applications to be included in the grant, David Gamberg, superintendent of both schools, said.

Mr. Gamberg added that he spoke to Southold Town Police Chief Martin Flatley about the district’s desire to use the app.

Shoreham-Wading River is also working on installing the app, with plans to have it in use this fall, Superintendent Gerard Poole said. Officials in the Riverhead School District could not be reached for comment.

“Our safety and security measures remain under a constant review and we continually look for opportunities to strengthen them,” Mr. Poole said. “The RAVE app will be an additional tool to coordinate emergency services with school districts, and expedite emergency services response time.”

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