You never know how you will react in a crisis until one actually happens and you are forced to act. Eastern DataComm President Al Harnisch and his team can’t prevent crises from happening, but they are doing their best to make sure that when something goes wrong, individuals are organized, prepared and well informed.
The Hackensack-based data communications company, which was co-founded by Harnisch in 1988, has created the Lock Down and Emergency Notification System (LENS), which is specifically designed to dramatically improve the time it takes to physically get the word out to an entire facility, such as a school, during an emergency event.
“Within seconds, our system will play an automated prerecorded message on the overhead paging system,” Harnisch says. “It turns on multiple strobe lights throughout the facility to visually alert students and staff that there is an emergency, calls 911 and local law enforcement, provides phone calls, screen pops, and text messages to other school officials who might need to know, and sends a signal to the door access control system to deactivate electronic unlocking of doors.”
To practice their emergency procedures, schools have periodic scheduled drills, in addition to being subjected to random drills that are monitored by the New Jersey State Police and Department of Education.
“The police aren’t there to penalize, but instead are just there to observe. They know what to look for in terms of what most schools are doing and not doing, and then they give them a list of things that they need to improve,” Harnisch says. “The next day, we usually get a call from the school listing off these items. We are able to talk to them about our lockdown solution, and it’s exactly what they need.”
There currently is no statewide legislation or written requirements for schools in terms of a minimum standard level of emergency system – just that they need to have some type of policy in place to handle a situation.
Eastern DataComm has worked closely with schools in determining the various features of its LENS, including wireless outdoor strobe lights and speakers to ensure that everyone on facility grounds is aware of a potential lockdown. The United States Patent and Trademark Office also recently issued a patent for an element of the LENS system.
“To have the US Patent and Trademark Office approve our patent is significant. It underscores what makes us different,” Harnisch says. “When we go into a school and see that they are inadequately prepared, and we are able to roll out our solution, it makes us feel good because we are absolutely improving the safety of the students and staff.”