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Pilot Program Provides Real Time Connections Between Emergency Responders And Schools

Mutualink, Inc.

There have been so many school shootings in recent years, parents will probably never feel totally at peace when they put their kids on the bus again. A new school safety pilot program, Mutualink K-12,  is rolling out in 20 public schools in Oneida and Rockland counties later this month. The technology announced by Governor Andrew Cuomo on Monday claims to improve communications and the sharing of information between participating schools and local first responders during an emergency.

Robert Barbato is director of the Office of Interoperable and Emergency Communications at the New York State Division of Homeland Security. He explains the program embraces new technology that provides first responders with instant access to school communications equipment during an emergency...   “...that would provide an immediate 'call for help' through a panic button setting interface on a desktop device, as well as having the ability to connect local communications from a facility, whether it’s like the telephone system, other audio, video if it’s in the facility, and provide situation awareness for potential responders in real time. This would greatly enhance the ability to respond to an incident or emergency, and provide better situation awareness for the responding agencies to the school. And it also helps the administrators within a school facility to have a technology that's relatively easy for them to use, as opposed to trying to use existing technology or something that's not familiar in a school setting.”

There is no strict timetable. Barbato expects the program will demonstrate its effectiveness as a situation awareness and incident management tool.   “If it does look like it's a great utility and has a benefit for that, we will consider deploying it in other settings, potentially expanding the program.”

The program will involve 20 schools—10 each in Rockland and Oneida counties. The program is being implemented by Homeland Security in conjunction with each county’s sheriff’s or emergency management office.  Rockland County Sheriff Louis Falco:    “The primary responsibility of government is to provide for the safety of our residents and none are more important than our children. This project will allow our schools to share real time audio, video and data with law enforcement at the county, town and village levels, to respond to incidents in the most effective manner possible, as they work to mitigate an emergency situation.”

Creating a Culture of Collaboration for Safer SchoolsPortable K12 Interoperable WorkStationThe Smart Panic ButtonK12 Network Interface Controller

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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