Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Radio System Boosts School Security

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Radio System Boosts School Security

Article excerpt

DEMAREST -- Security measures have been beefed up at five borough schools, thanks to a new emergency radio network.

The system has created a broad communication network that can be used by schools and law enforcement to better manage emergencies in the borough and in schools, Police Chief James Powderley said.

The system allows police to communicate directly with school officials during a crisis. Users of the system also will be able to communicate with other schools that have the system.

Currently, five schools and two administrative buildings in the borough are equipped with the system. The network will be monitored by the County Communications Center in Mahwah, which is responsible for handling the dispatch of county support services. The radios, which cost roughly $1,800 each, are equipped with panic buttons and GPS tracking.

Demarest has not had a history of violent incidents in schools, but police as well as school officials were eager to take a proactive approach, particularly in light of the Newtown, Conn., school massacre and other tragic incidents in schools and public places in recent years.

The schools already have cameras, security guards and monitors. But the radios offer quicker and more efficient assistance.

If security guards or staff members spy a suspicious-looking person, they can radio for help, Powderley said. The officers en route can talk to school staff to find out where the person in question is. That is much quicker than calling 911, which puts the caller through to a call center, which might be several towns away. "This brings us on the same page as the folks in the school building trying to manage the crisis," Powderley said. "We can now communicate easier and react quicker."

The newly installed system proved itself last Monday morning during a crisis at the Academy of Holy Angels, in which two students passed out in two separate areas of the building within moments of each other around 9:30 a.m.. Staff called in on the new radios after the first student became unconscious, and help was dispatched immediately. Another call was placed when the second student passed out.

"Having these radios and being able to communicate directly with the school allowed us to . …

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