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Local Florida Law Enforcement Demos Life-saving Technology for Schools
Author: Jeff Kelly, Field Training Coordinator, Mutualink
As we approach the beginning of a new academic year, many schools are understandably concerned about the safety of their students and staff and are implementing emergency preparedness plans, and procuring needed equipment. While it is unlikely that we can eliminate school violence entirely, there are certainly ways to better prepare schools and public safety officials to respond quickly and effectively should an emergency incident occur. A key element of effective responsiveness is strong, collaborative communications.
To ensure that communities are fully prepared in the event of an emergency or disaster, many school districts and their local police departments are conducting school safety exercises to test equipment and procedures. Earlier this month, the Orlando law enforcement community teamed up with the University of Central Florida (UCF), Valencia College, and Mutualink, a multimedia interoperable communications company, for a live demonstration of school safety technology.
Former Orlando Deputy Chief Carl Metzger, now Deputy Chief at UCF, and retired Orlando Captain Michael Favorit, now Assistant Director for Campus Security at Valencia College, participated in the demonstration.
The demonstration took place during the Annual National Association of School Resource Officers (NASRO) Conference in Orlando, which enabled school resource officers from all over the country to witness first-hand how schools and law enforcement officials working together can utilize advanced communications equipment to improve response time in emergency situations.
The simulated school emergency notification was initiated at UCF with the press of a “panic button.” Once the panic button is pressed, the system simultaneously engages law enforcement in real time and provides dispatchers with an immediate video feed along with instant communication with a school official’s radio. Mutualink’s communications technology broadens the school’s and first responders’ levels of communications by enabling secure sharing of critical information such as live video, radio, audio, images, data, and even a map or floor plan of the school. The school is able to control and approve access to all information in real time. The panic button is deployed at universities along with an Interoperable Workstation (or its virtual counterpart), and Network Interface Controllers to bridge radio, video and PA/intercom communications. The panic button, radio, video and intercom integration is also available in a special bundle for schools as part of Mutualink’s K-12 School Safety Program.
The Orlando Police Department's new Mobile Command Vehicle (MCV), built by Florida-based specialty vehicle maker MBF Industries, was on-site and used to participate in the live demonstration. The multi-faceted vehicle [above] uses Mutualink’s technology along with a mesh network to enable the deployment of remote cameras at any scene. The MCV has Mutualink’s interoperable communications suite onboard to facilitate shared radio and video in incidents as needed.
“Mutualink’s approach to school safety makes sense on a number of levels,” said Deputy Chief Metzger, of UCF. “With this technology in place, we may not be able to stop an incident from happening, but we can certainly take control of the situation in real time and resolve the incident more quickly through enhanced situational awareness.”
After the event, UCF Deputy Chief Metzger and Assistant Director of Security for Valencia College Michael Favorit spoke of the benefits of real-time video imagery in an emergency and the critical value of radio integration between agencies during a crisis. Video and high quality audio, sourced from the university, was shared nationally via the MCV.
We owe a special thanks to Deputy Chief Metzger, Director Favorit, Deputy Chief Rob Pigman and Sergeant Jeff Blye from the Orlando Police Department as well as Bob Brauner and the staff at the Rosen Shingle Creek Resort, which hosted the NASRO conference, for helping facilitate this demonstration. The threat to our schools is a very real thing, but preparing schools for the worst case scenario is the first step in empowering our communities to exact the best possible outcome.
Jeff Kelly is the Field Training Coordinator for Mutualink, a communications interoperability and resource sharing provider based in Wallingford, CT. The technology is based on Mutualink management's 20 plus years of experience in radio networks, public safety markets, wireless communications, video, and advanced Voice & Radio-over-IP (VoIP & RoIP). For more information, see http://www.mutualink.net/