MAMARONECK, N.Y. -- Mamaroneck residents and a panel organized to discuss safety after the Newtown school shooting explored how the community is working to keep children and citizens as safe as possible and what actions have been spurred since the tragedy in December.
“Although this community seems like, feels like, tastes like ... a very safe community,” Mamaroneck Town Supervisor Nancy Seligson said, we need to “try to reduce the risk, minimize ourselves as a target.”
Joining Seligson on the panel were Capt. Antonino Rigano, executive officer of the Village of Larchmont Police Department; Lt. Bob Reynolds, Youth Officer, Town of Mamaroneck Police; and Meryl Rubinstein, Mamaroneck School District’s assistant superintendent for business operations and point-person for school building security.
Panelists said there is a very close coordination known as Town-Village-School (TVS) among the three municipalities -- Villages of Mamaroneck and Larchmont and Town of Mamaroneck -- and the two school districts of Mamaroneck and Rye Neck. All the entities are working together to re-examine safety procedures, preparedness and response.
Rigano, a 24-year veteran of the Village of Larchmont Police, referenced a survey conducted by the New York Police Department that cited three key factors critical to reducing risks associated with emergencies: procedures (e.g., how to exit from a building), systems (e.g. surveillance equipment), and training (e.g. emergency drills at schools).
In emphasizing the critical nature of training, Rigano said all three jurisdictions have recently trained together, and the police routinely train in the schools during off hours to be familiar with the buildings.
“Safety and security were a top priority well before any tragic events happened,” said Rubinstein. In contrast to the role that the municipal law enforcement officers play – often a reactive one - the schools are “always focused on preventing, instead of reacting.”
New procedures and systems have been put in place in all the Mamaroneck schools after the Newtown tragedy. At the four elementary schools and the Hommocks Middle School, a single point of entry is enforced and a new buzzer entry system has been installed. At all six schools, including Mamaroneck High School, all visitors are required to leave a photo ID and wear a visitor’s badge while in the buildings.
At the high school, which has had a video camera system in place for the past four years, limiting entrance and egress is a bigger challenge because it is an open campus. The administration is seeking ways to improve security there.
All six schools have held routine fire drills and recent lockdown drills.
On the municipal level, Seligson highlighted several examples of safety programs, such as the Community Emergency Response Team, through which volunteers receive training from first responders and other disaster professionals and are able to support first responders and assist victims in disasters.
Seligson also mentioned the Town’s Emergency Response Plan and the Hazard Mitigation Plan, a newly funded initiative. The town will be hiring a consultant shortly to lead this yearlong project, which is aimed at understanding the risks associated with a range of hazards, then identifying ways to avoid or mitigate the negative impact of those situations.
In closing, Seligson emphasized the need to “think about and address [these types of] issues on a continual basis.”