Security measures continue to be discussed among school administrators, local officials and emergency personnel in the weeks that have followed the Newtown tragedy.
The installation of panic buttons in schools and public buildings has been discussed both locally and regionally in recent weeks. An Essex County assemblyman has introduced a bill that would equip NJ public schools with a silent panic alarm that could be triggered in emergencies.
Hasbrouck Heights Police Chief Michael Colaneri says there are advantages to panic buttons as they can be portable and triggered from anywhere however he believes calling 911 is still a faster and more effective way of getting police on site in just under one minute.
Colaneri says triggering an alarm or panic button will go to a third party system who will contact police, but dialing 911 will go straight to the Heights police who are always near. This borough’s police department has its own 911 dispatch which means calls go directly to the Heights police and are not rerouted as is the case in other areas. Also calling 911 will automatically record the location of the emergency call, he says.
Although there has always been security at Heights school buildings, it has been tightened in the wake of the Newtown tragedy. All the schools now have a staff member at the main entrances to conduct sign-ins and issue visitor passes which was previously done in the main office which in the end schools is located on the second floor.
Also schools have restricted the timeframe for which parents can drop off items to their children to just one hour in the mornings as a way to limit the amount of visitors in the buildings throughout the day.
There are also discussions about taking further security measures at the municipal complex and public library.
The tragedy has everyone thinking about taking stricter measures, said the chief. He says he continues to speak with school administration about what more could possibly be done in the future.