As part of its ongoing effort to ensure and improve school safety the Bayport-Blue Point School District is participating in a pilot program in which security data is accessible using a digital format for fast shared access in the event of a security threat.
For the past two years security and technology consultants involved in the non-profit Applied Science Foundation for Homeland Security have been working with district officials to develop an online software system, called Project SAFEguard, that will provide first responders, including ambulances, fire departments and police, with needed building and operations data.
Project SAFEguard provides everything from building blue prints to building access points to gas line locations. The B-BP system is just about completed, according to project consultants, and the district now must decide its next steps when it comes to school security strategy.
The application was built by GEOCommand, LIFT and CCSI, several of many research technology companies at the Morrelly Homeland Security Center in Bethpage which is tied to the Applied Science Foundation for Homeland Security, a member of the Long Island Forum for Technology.
Project SAFEguard offers everything from a basic module approach (such as housing Project SAVE documents and architectural drawings) to more advanced features including iCommunity, which is an online communication capability for reporting issues between the school and the community.
Consultants from the companies presented an overview of Project SAFEguard Tuesday night at the board of education worksession meeting.
The potential next steps, according to the consultants, range from simply providing the digital data to emergency response agencies, to installing swipe door systems, adding additional video cameras to establishing a central management district security team for monitoring buildings and activity. It could also mean adding security personnel.
But all of those, as several board of education members noted, will be a tough decision given the budget challenges already facing the district.
As part of Project SAFEguard’s development the district also conducted a series of security drills at all the schools in the past month. Those drills included fire drills, lockdown drills, evacuation drills, go home early drills. The security audit review process also delved into communication practices used in the school during security incidents.
“It’s an ongoing assessment and we now have to develop protocols and determine the charge going forward,” said Superintendent Dr. Vincent Butera. Those decisions, he added, will be done with input from the board and community.
After the presentation several board members asked the consultants for clarification on security measures currently in place and what technology is already used for security efforts.
“The question is what is worthwhile and what is effective and can we leverage the [tech] investments we’ve already made and the capabilities we already have,” said trustee Bill Milligan.
Trustee Diane D’Angelo said she would like to see a cost benefit analysis of the potential security options before making any decisions and asked the consultants about potential costs savings that could be gained by the various options.
The consultants stated that insurance companies are likely receptive to lowering premiums when better school security is in place as it can reduce gaps and liability. Additional security would also likely reduce vandalism incidents on school property which BOE President James March described as “significant.”
Yet the security consultants also acknowledged there is currently no state aid to help schools with security costs and said districts need to work with lawmakers to change that scenario.