School shootings have unfortunately become a regular tragedy in the United States. These shocking active shooter incidents may have sparked fears and anxieties for young students, but they have also kick-started urgent conversations to improve school safety in K-12 schools across the county. Following one of the deadliest school shootings in 2018 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Florida state lawmakers have taken action to improve campus safety by implementing mandatory monthly active shooter drills as well as armed security guards at every school in the state.
Lori Alhadeff, mother of 14 year-old Alyssa Alhadeff who sadly died in the tragic Parkland shooting, is trying to do more when it comes to school safety. Although there was an armed school resource officer in Parkland at the time of the shooting, that unfortunately wasn’t enough to protect her daughter and many others who lost their lives that day. Alhadeff has been actively fighting for mandatory silent panic alarms in all public schools, and the legislation has been both named after Alyssa and dedicated to her memory.
Alyssa’s Law has been brought forward in New Jersey, Florida, and is gaining traction nationally.
What This Means for Florida Schools
Michael Gottlieb, the Florida State Representative from Broward County, has been key in implementing Alyssa's Law in Florida. Broward County is where Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School resides, meaning Alyssa's Law and the significance behind the legislation hits very close to home.
The Wall Street Journal explains communication problems were a large contributing factor to law enforcement's disorderly response to the school shooting in Parkland. The article goes on to say, "Parkland’s 911 system involved screening emergency calls in one call center and then transferring them to another, slowing the flow of information to officers on scene... The incompatibility of two responding departments’ radio systems meant their personnel couldn’t talk to each other." For this reason, schools and districts must work with their local law enforcement and 911 centers to ensure school safety technology is compatible with their existing systems.
Implementing Alyssa’s Law in Florida would require each school building to have at least one panic button for use in a school security emergency, including, but not limited to, a non-fire evacuation, lockdown, or active shooter situation. The panic alarm must be directly linked to the local law enforcement agencies that are designated as first responders to the school's campus and must immediately transmit a signal or message to those authorities upon activation.
If Gottlieb’s bill is passed, Florida schools would be required to have the alarms by July 1, 2020.
New Jersey: First State to Adopt Alyssa’s Law
The State of New Jersey was the first in the United States to adopt Alyssa’s Law. Originally from Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey, Alyssa’s death prompted a quick call for better school safety and security measures in New Jersey schools. “Alyssa’s death is a stark reminder of the dangers of gun violence and the need for adequate school security measures,” said Governor Phil Murphy. “In New Jersey, we will do everything in our power to prevent these tragedies from occurring within our borders.”
Governor Murphy signed a version of Alyssa’s Law, which passed unopposed, requiring all New Jersey public schools to install silent panic button alarms to alert law enforcement during emergencies, such as an active shooter.
“The trust our children have in us to protect them is a sacred bond that is worth every measure of effort, to whatever length is required. It has unfortunately, wavered these past few years as student increasingly feel unsafe at school. Fortifying our schools’ emergency response capabilities is a small endeavor compared to the value of our children,” said Senator Rice. “New Jersey will be propelled into the forefront of states which are harnessing the power of technology to protect our schools from the type of heart-wrenching tragedies we’ve seen far too many times in the news. But more than that, it will help fulfill our responsibility to the children that we hold so dear.”
After going through such a tragedy, Alyssa’s parents Lori and Ilan Alhadeff were honored that Alyssa’s Law was quickly passed in New Jersey. According to the official site of the State of New Jersey they said, “On February 14th, 2018, 17 people were brutally murdered at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida including our 14-year-old daughter Alyssa. As former residents of NJ, we are honored that Assemblymen Holley and Caputo, Mayor Carlos Rendo of Woodcliff Lake, Lisa Yakomin, and the NJ voters took action to make schools safe in NJ on behalf of our daughter Alyssa. Our hearts are overwhelmed to know our daughter's death is making national changes for school safety and hopefully other states will follow suit. It is with great pleasure to join Governor Murphy to witness this bill signing and we know that Alyssa is watching from above.”
Public schools in New Jersey had until the beginning of October 2019 to comply with Alyssa's Law and install panic button alarms in every building to efficiently communicate silently with law enforcement.
Why Panic Buttons Work
There have been more calls for silent alarms in schools as the lifesaving technology is a quick way to notify all faculty, staff and employees that there is a situation. Silent alarms have evolved in a very short time from being stationary buttons under a desk or otherwise, to being easily accessible on anybody’s mobile device. Mobile panic buttons are the new and improved silent alarms and are able to notify all personnel and local law enforcement simultaneously. The simple app allows for one-touch connections to the right departments for help (police, fire, medical, or other 9-1-1 emergencies).
All too often there is a lot of confusion during an emergency, and by the time 9-1-1 arrives, the whole event is over. Communication in any emergency situation is key. Having the ability to notify the necessary people about an emergency situation and where it is occurring, whether it is an active assailant incident or a medical emergency, could ultimately save lives. During the tragic school shooting in Parkland, teachers on the third floor of the school were completely unaware that there was an active shooter on the premises and allowed students to leave their classrooms as they believed the alarm was a fire drill. Having clear communication could have resolved this issue.
Mobile panic button technology isn’t only useful during active assailant situations. School nurses can notify medics that a student needs additional assistance, teachers can report suspicious behavior that may be seen on the playground at recess, and more. There are many situations in which a panic button could be a great help in keeping students and staff safe.
Not only do mobile panic buttons eliminate the communication gap during an emergency, keeping students, teachers and staff safe, but they also reduce police and first responder emergency response times by accurately reporting the type of incident as well as a precise location of where the emergency is happening. When seconds count, it’s important to have a reliable school safety technology, such as the Rave Panic Button, to help.
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