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Article


Chalk Hill has been renamed Sandy Hook and now hosts students and staff displaced by the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre. (Photo: AP)
January 04, 2013 | by D. Craig MacCormack

Some projects aren’t about maximizing the bottom line. They’re about helping people return to a somewhat-normal life following a tragic situation.

Such was the case when HB Communications of North Haven, Conn., set out to help the survivors of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre gain access to world-class technology at their new school across town.

“Obviously, everyone was mortified when they heard about what happened [at Sandy Hook] but we knew we could help them,” says HB Communications CEO Dana Barron.

Newtown, Conn. is about a 35-minute drive from HB’s headquarters, he says, and HB has done work in the town’s high school, but not in its elementary schools in the past.

Barron heard from HB’s partner company, Atrion Networking in Warwick, R.I., that it was installing security and phone system equipment donated by Cisco at the formerly shuttered Chalk Hill School for displaced Sandy Hook students and staff and volunteered to help in any way it was needed.

The same was true of integration firms RnB Enterprises of Newtown, Conn., and Valley Communications Systems of Chicopee, Mass., Barron says.

After Barron and two HB Communication project managers did their initial walk-through at Chalk Hill on Dec. 21, they reached out to manufacturer partners for help in outfitting 37 classrooms before students returned to class on Jan. 3.

After initially toying with the idea of transferring as much technology as possible from Sandy Hook to Chalk Hill, Barron says the companies decided to instead give the students and teachers new technology in their new classrooms.

“That was the right thing to do,” Barron says. “It was very emotional seeing people trying to put their classrooms together and seeing the students there too.”

All 37 classrooms got new Smart boards, Mitsubishi projectors and audio systems, and the library got two Sharp 70-inch interactive displays. Installers were able to bring four Smart Rover systems from Sandy Hook and have them ready for any future use as the school system needs them.

C2G and Chief Manufacturing also donated equipment to the effort, says Barron, and FedEx waived all delivery charges to help expedite the process. Installers had all of the equipment but the smart boards by Dec. 26, then got half of the boards Dec. 27 and half the next day. They were done with the installation by Dec. 30, says Barron.

For HB Communications, that meant about 300 man hours over the course of four days for a project that would typically take at least a couple of weeks, he says.

“There were so many trades and so many volunteers at the school along with the teachers and students,” says Barron. “We could have had all 150 of our employees there helping, but we had to do it in a more controlled way.”

While the three A/V integrators generally were little more than competitors for projects in the past, Barron speaks fondly now of the bonds formed with RnB Enterprises and Valley Communication Systems in working together on such an important and emotional endeavor, especially in such tight quarters and under such a compressed deadline.

“A lot of these people were thanking us, but I don’t want thanks,” Barron says.

“We were in a position to help and we consider it a privilege to be able to do so. This is our home so we all felt the overwhelming need to help in some way. One thing we learned is if everyone really wants to cooperate, it’s amazing what you can do.”

About the author

Craig MacCormack is a veteran journalist with more than 15 years experience covering local and national news and sports as well as architecture and engineering. He joined Commercial Integrator in January 2011. Follow him on Twitter: @CraigMacCormack.
View all posts by D. Craig MacCormack
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