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Panic Button Technology Finds Place in U.S. Synagogues

Fear centered on recent mass shooting events is prompting some religious centers to turn to technology that automatically alerts authorities of an emergency, while providing real-time insights.

(TNS) — An Israeli start-up is pushing panic buttons for mass shootings and violence.

The Gabriel crisis alarm system, designed with communal spaces like schools and places of worship in mind, is equipped with sensors that automatically send an alert to authorities when they’re activated. It’s also outfitted with a camera and microphone so it can share critical, real-time information from the scene.

Championed by an advisory board that includes former Israel Police Chief Yohanan Danino and Ryan Petty, the father of a 14-year-old Parkland school shooting victim, the Gabriel platform joins a series of security enhancements aimed at curbing the carnage in public facilities and buildings all over the world.

From armored school doors and metal detectors to facial recognition software and clear book bags, schools in the United States are shelling out millions of dollars to protect students following a string of high-profile mass shootings in recent years. After a student gunman killed 17 students and teachers inside the halls of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Valentine’s Day last year, some panicked school districts even floated the idea of arming their staff and students with rocks and baseball bats.

The market for security equipment and services in the education sector reached $2.7 billion in 2017 even though there’s minimal evidence suggesting such measures have any preventative impact, according to IHS Markit. Despite the boost in security, the number of mass shootings at U.S. schools have remained the same for the last couple decades.

But Gabriel’s founder, Yoni Sherizen, believes the product can help reduce the devastating death tolls in the event of mass shootings, such as the bloody attack in Parkland or the recent attack on two Mosques in New Zealand, which left 50 people dead.

“One hundred years ago, people died in the panic during fires,” he told The Guardian. “We’ve been successful at educating a generation on how to deal with fires. Unfortunately, the challenges that our children today have to deal with are things like active shooter situations and terror attacks.”

The Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit has completed pilot programs for the product and intend to install Gabriel at 25 different locations. An October shooting inside a Pittsburgh Synagogue, which left 11 people dead, has stoked fears of antisemitism and hate crimes — and Sherizen expects orders from similar groups moving forward.

The Gabriel alarm system utilizes several different components, including a physical device that can be mounted on the wall. Sherizen described it as the “cousin of the fire alarm,” a simple system that activates at the push of a button. It also comes with the Gabriel smartphone app, which can be used as an alert and communication system.

The company has additionally developed a command and control dashboard that allow emergency teams access to real-time updates from the scene.

Sherizen, a dual Israeli-U.S. citizen, said he was inspired to create the alarm system after he got swept up in the chaos of a 2016 shooting at a Tel Aviv mall. The same year, 49 people were gunned down inside the Pulse nightclub in Orlando.

“In events like that, the casualty rate skyrockets with every passing minute,” he told the Jerusalem Post.

“If you can help people instantly get to safety, alert them of the danger, alert authorities and provide emergency services with real-time information on how to deal with the crisis, you can dramatically change the way these things unfold.”

Kenneth Trump, the president of National School Safety and Security Services said the “devil is in the details of implementation” when it comes to all of the security gadgets on the market, noting the best possible defense in times of violence is an educated and well-trained student body and staff.

“Any security technology and hardware is only as effective as the weakest human link behind these security measures,” Trump wrote in an email to the Daily News.

He added that after analysis of countless high-profile active shooter cases, rapes, child abductions and other school safety issues he found a varying degree of efficacy when it comes to high-tech security measures.

“Visible, tangible signs of school safety may make parents and others feel emotionally safer, but they may not actually make students and staff truly safe,” Trump said, dubbing the practice “security theater.”

“School leaders need to focus on best practices: Creating a climate where students feel comfortable to report weapons, plots, and other safety concerns; creating threat assessment teams, training and protocols, providing students with emotional, behavioral and mental health support, reasonably diversifying basic school safety drills without going over-the-top to do more harm and debrief lessons learned from each drill.”

The Gabriel starter kit, which includes 10 emergency buttons, the apps, software and a year’s worth of training, costs $10,000. The prices jump, however, based on the size of the building or facility. Sherizen estimates it could cost around $30,000 to properly cover a school.

©2019 New York Daily News. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.