Written by Betsy Abraham Friday, 26 April 2013 00:00
Nassau BOCES unveiled its communications command center last week, aimed at providing better security to school districts and allowing first responders real time audio and video.
The center in Westbury provides round-the-clock monitoring and security by tapping into a school district’s existing camera system. Operators watch several screens in the room, which brings up live feed. Operators are not looking at video from all the participating schools at one time; instead video only comes up on the screens when an event happens. These events include doors opening, people in restricted areas, or fire/panic alarms going off.
The operator is to use pre-defined responses based on the situation. If a panic button is pushed, a script will come up prompting the operator to contact the police, and providing phone numbers of the superintendent and other personnel. Scripts were negotiated with the police department to ensure the best response was executed for each potential scenario.
“It’s not about what they see, it’s about how they respond. This is an event driven system. As an event occurs, they respond to the event. It’s not about watching a hundred cameras, it’s more effective having the system telling you when something is triggered and go exploring why it occurred and get deep into it. By centralizing our response, a script pops up and they have a step by step checklist,” said Nassau BOCES District Superintendent Tom Rogers.
Because all the monitoring is done at a centralized, off-campus location, this also adds an added security and economic benefit.
“What’s the point of all the security, if no one’s watching it? It’s nice to have something that affordable because we don’t have to spend a lot on personnel. A command center is also usually at the same place where there’s a problem, so it’s nice that this is away from our facility,” Jason Lopez, Chief Technology Officer at Roslyn, said.
Another major benefit of the security command center is its partnership with the Nassau County Police Department. In a crisis situation, the police department can tap into the security feed and have access to digitized floor plans of the school, complete with links to security cameras. During an emergency, officers will be able to receive real time video and see exactly what is going on in the school and where. They can see video and have access to the floor plans not only at the command center, but also en route to the school, using iPads or their mobile devices.
“We can share information that can help the police department potentially deter, detect, and prevent these horrific events from occurring. And that’s our goal. This is an ongoing process and a step in the right direction. We will as a department, be able to take real time information, get it to our 911 dispatchers and the responding officers as quickly as possible in responding to critical situations,” said Lt. Kenneth Strigaro from the Nassau County Police Department.
The security command center is currently testing out the program in the Plainedge and Roslyn school districts and Rogers notes that there has been a lot of interest from other districts. In order for a school district to take advantage of BOCES’ security services, the district must first be part of Nassau BOCES’ fiber-optic network, Bo-TIE. Currently, 31 districts are hooked up to this fiber-optic network and if they chose to use the security monitoring system, it can be set up in minutes.