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The Price of Safety

| News | October 11, 2018

Al Hunt sells a school security system he believes in. But he’s having a difficult time convincing school districts they need it.

The reason: the cost. The Hunt Communications School Emergency Notification Bridge, powered by XOP Networks, runs about $25,000 per school, including installation. That’s $250,000 to equip all 10 Newhall School District campuses, and $375,000 for the Saugus Union and William S. Hart Union High School districts.

“That’s the biggest thing that’s held it back,” Hunt admitted, “but you can’t give something away for nothing.”

Indeed, the website (emergencynotificationbridge.com) offers details about the system. Hunt highlighted some features: During an actual emergency, such as a school shooting, administrators can use the phone system to call everybody who needs to know what’s happening, from teachers and on-campus security personnel to fire, police and ambulance. Parents can receive phone calls or texts and district officials can alert principals. The system also can be wired to security cameras that police can access.

Hunt estimated that the price per student is only about $30.

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Hunt said the system exists at airports such as John Wayne and Lost Hills-Kern County, and the company is bidding for a contract at Los Angeles International.

School districts, however, are another matter. When Hunt approached someone at a school district in Huntington Beach, he said, “If it was up to them, they’d write the check right then and there.” (He also said he would provide a list of districts that use the system but didn’t.)

None of the local districts have the system. In fact, Hunt hasn’t taken any meetings. He said he has no contacts for Castaic and Newhall school districts, didn’t know Sulphur Springs existed and tried numerous times with Saugus but got no reply (Hunt said he’s only been selling this system for about six to eight months).

According to Saugus board member Chris Trunkey, the normal procedure calls for district staff to evaluate any system that gets pitched. Only when the district determines a system is worthwhile does it get sent to the board for approval. Trunkey said he can’t recall the board approving a new security system in the last couple of years, but he knows the board regularly approves contracts that have to be renewed.

Saugus district Director of Safety & Risk Management Keith Karzin didn’t return a phone call.

The procedure is similar in the Hart district. Hunt said he contacted his friend, school board member Joe Messina, about the system.

Messina said the Hart district gets pitched often about many things. He said he told Hunt that if he really believed in the system, he should talk to district staff.

“You go through the proper channels, and I’ll look into it,” Messina said. “Calling a trustee is not a proper channel.”

Hart district spokesman Dave Caldwell said he wasn’t sure if Hunt ever contacted the district, but even if he did, he would have had to go through a bidding process.

Hunt is not dissuaded. In fact, he said, if every parent wrote a check for $30 to the school district, the system would be paid for.

“If you look at it per child, it’s not prohibitive,” he said.

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About Lee Barnathan

Lee Barnathan has been a writer and editor since 1990. His articles have been published in newspapers, magazines and online. His new book "If You Experience Death, Please Call and Other Fatal Mistakes We Make With Language," a humorous look at the ways people misuse English, is available on Amazon or at his website, www.leebarnathan.com. He is hired by people all over the country to help them refine the message or story they wish to share with their target audience or demographic.

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