Getting Smarter

Being prepared with security means using the latest technology

Cape Cod, Mass. is a vacation destination for many. Known for its sweeping beaches and gentle sea grass, violence is not a thought that comes to mind. Yet, Dennis-Yarmouth Regional Schools are leading the charge in security preparedness.

Named a “2013 Best School” by U.S. News and World Report, it’s not surprising that this is a progressive campus. But, what recently came to fruition represents not only forward thinking, but collaboration at its best.

Working with ELERTS Corp., the Yarmouth Police Department and the Dennis- Yarmouth Regional School District rolled out a comprehensive program that uses mobile technology to improve school safety. The program centers around two apps, including a communications platform that allows school staff to use their smartphones to share security concerns with teachers, other staff and local police. Designated personnel can lockdown a facility with the touch of a button via the ELERTS Lock It Down app. Police can broadcast real-time advisories while receiving valuable photos and GPS location in reports.

The ELERTS Campus app is designed for broader use among students, teachers and residents in keeping with the national “See Something, Say Something” campaign. Reports, such as suspicious activity, crime, hazard, motor vehicle and disturbance, are sent by smartphone directly to the appropriate authority.

These apps are available for iPhone, iPad and Android devices, and can be integrated with video surveillance and access control systems. Reports are managed through a cloud-driven console.

Common Ground

School safety awareness is not new to this region as many area school communities have been moved by the Sandy Hook tragedy that occurred just 200 miles away. In September 2013, the Cape Cod Times ran a detailed article about steps being taken at area schools. The story reported that some schools were installing cameras, buzzers and door locks while others were investing in consultants and school resource officers. Some are embracing ALICE training, which advocates situational response: alert, lockdown, inform, counter and evacuate. Dennis-Yarmouth, already having many advanced security measures in place, however, continues to move forward to enhance its posture with the ELERTS initiative.

School Resource Officer, Nicholas Pasquarosa Jr., said, “We’ve been on the forefront of emergency preparedness training for many years. We’ve taught workshops; we have an advanced video management system. But we didn’t have a good way to talk to each other. With ELERTS, everyone in the closed system gets the message... anything from the location of an intruder to instructions on how to proceed.”

When Dennis-Yarmouth Superintendent Carol Woodbury arrived 10 years ago, the doors were wide open and there was no protocol for dealing with security issues.

“With the help of police departments in Yarmouth and Dennis, that’s changed,” Woodbury said.

Origins

ELERTS is born from two different but intertwined roots. Founder Chris Russo, also the executive vice president, is a lifelong first responder and deputy fire chief. He is a fasttalking, cut-to-the chase kind of guy who knows what needs to be done and how to do it.

“I’ve always felt that first responders could be faster responders if we had better communication— not just a way to broadcast alerts to the public but to receive valuable information from them,” Russo said. “To first responders, seconds count. It’s critical to know where the threat is and what it looks like. As soon as I saw the potential of mobile technology, I knew we had a way to do this. I’m not talking just about the functionality of apps, but being able to galvanize a community during a crisis— or to combine enough intelligence to avert one. Because our solutions can also integrate with access control and video surveillance systems, we take the idea of mass notification one step further—not just informing people but being able to trigger potentially life-saving action.”

The CEO of ELERTS, Ed English, has been referred to as a “serial entrepreneur.” His experiences bring a proven track record and engineering expertise to the process.

“In developing Lock It Down and Campus, we focused on using smartphones to gather and deliver crowd-sourced information about security incidents as they were unfolding,” English said. “We also took care to make the apps easy to use in times of distress and made sure communication was robust. Some apps act as if the Internet is always on, which is not often the case. ELERTS products use a ‘storeand- forward’ technology so that even if connectivity is temporarily unavailable, as soon as the connection is restored, the incident report from the app user is sent automatically.”

This article originally appeared in the July 2014 issue of Security Today.

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