More States Requiring ‘Panic Alarms’ In Schools

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A bill to require panic alarms in Florida public schools will be considered in the legislative session getting under way this week, as lawmakers continue to grapple with the Parkland school shooting two years ago. the Wall Street Journal reports. The alerts, like modern variations of bank-teller alarm buttons, silently transmit information to 911 dispatchers and police, such as the precise location of the caller, school floor plans and live video feeds from cameras on campus. Users can trigger them by a radio, pendant or smartphone app, and most schools limit access to teachers and other staff. Federal lawmakers last year filed two similar measures that both await action in the House. One is named for Alyssa Alhadeff, a student killed in the Parkland shooting, which left 17 dead.

The New York legislature is also considering a panic-alarm bill. In August, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said his state would allocate $4 million for panic-alarm apps for all schools, and Oklahoma followed with $3 million for the technology. Last February, Gov. Phil Murphy of New Jersey signed a version of “Alyssa’s Law.” Officials have estimated the cost of implementing the Florida measure at $8 million. Communication problems contributed to law enforcement’s disorderly response to the Parkland shooting, a state panel found. Parkland’s 911 system involved screening emergency calls in one call center and transferring them to another, slowing the flow of information to officers on scene, the panel found. The incompatibility of two responding departments’ radio systems meant their personnel couldn’t talk to each other.

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