Staff members met with Sonitrol, a residential and commercial security systems company, and found that it would cost about $1,200 to buy the panic button equipment and an additional $1,000 a year to monitor it, said Zeb Williams, chairman of the Patriots Point Development Authority’s Security Committee.
The full development authority board agreed unanimously on Friday to pursue a contract with the company.
Mac Burdette, executive director of Patriots Point, said there will probably be six panic buttons in various locations at the attraction, such as the front desk, operations department and his own office. It’s also possible there will be a mobile panic button that an employee could carry.
When one of the buttons is pressed, a signal would be sent to the police department. The authority hasn’t decided whether the police department would automatically send officers to Patriots Point or whether the department would first call to verify a problem, Burdette said.
“If we did have someone who was creating a real problem for us here, who could threaten life, limb and liberty, someone would know where to push one of those buttons, whether it be a staff member or one of our volunteers,” Burdette said. “It wouldn’t be for the public.”
The panic buttons could be the first of several security upgrades at the naval and maritime museum.
“We want to make sure that, within reason — and I emphasize that word ‘within reason’ — we need to look at our physical security in terms of protection of our employees and our guests; not whether or not someone is going to steal something from us, but a lone-wolf kind of situation,” he said.
Proposals in next year’s budget could include beefing up security at Patriots Point’s entry gate and signing a contract with the town of Mount Pleasant to have off-duty police officers at the attraction, Burdette said.
“It would be a rare occasion that somebody would bring a firearm or a bomb or whatever on our property and try to do something intentionally, but it has happened obviously (in other places), and it could happen here. ... We just feel like it’s important given what’s going on in the world that we take prudent measures,” he said.
Each January for the past six years, Patriots Point has promoted a “Pay What You Can” weekend, during which visitors could pay whatever price they could afford for parking and admission. This year’s event, on Jan. 7-8, was not as profitable as expected, with about 2,500 visitors paying $9,861 in admission fees and $2,676 in parking fees.
Last year, 5,181 visitors paid $19,127 in admission fees and $4,834 in parking fees during the “Pay What You Can” event, according to figures provided by Patriots Point.
“It was the worst weather of the year in terms of rain and cold, and nobody showed up because of the weather,” Burdette said.
That unexpected drop in revenue, combined with losses in October because of Hurricane Matthew, has Patriots Point’s expenditures exceeding revenue by just over $1 million for the fiscal year, which started in July.
“This is the time of the year we’re going to start to swing back the other way,” said CFO Royce Breland. “We receive the majority of our revenue in March through June.”
During the remainder of the fiscal year, he projects Patriots Point will take in about $5.35 million in revenue and spend about $4.1 million.
“We’re going to closely monitor those revenues to make sure we’re going to come in on target,” he said. “If we do, that should be more than enough to wipe out this million-dollar deficit by June 30.”