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School Safety Enhanced With Silent Panic Alarm Systems

In this image taken from video taken from a school security camera and provided by the Owasso Police Dept., Nex Benedict is seen walking out of the school with a security guard, Feb. 7, 2024, at Owass

In December 2021, the principal at Eagle Point Elementary School in Broward County, Florida, received an anonymous bomb threat. Utilizing a silent panic alarm app on her phone, she promptly alerted the police, leading to a swift response from the Broward County Sheriff’s Office.

The sheriff’s office was able to provide immediate instructions for evacuating the school, contacting the fire department, and dispatching the bomb squad. Fortunately, the threat turned out to be unfounded, as it was revealed to be a prank call made by an elementary school student.

Following the tragic mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, in 2018, the Broward County school district, serving over 251,000 students, implemented a silent panic alarm system to enhance school safety measures.

Florida has since enacted Alyssa’s Law, named after a victim of the Parkland shooting, which mandates public schools to install panic alarm systems directly linked to law enforcement. This initiative aims to reduce response times during emergencies, such as gun violence incidents or medical crises.

While Florida has allocated funds for panic button systems in schools, only a few states, including New Jersey, New York, Texas, Tennessee, and Utah, have passed similar legislation. These systems, whether in the form of apps or physical panic buttons, enable staff to quickly report emergencies, share precise location data with law enforcement, and issue school-wide alerts.

Advocates of Alyssa’s Law emphasize the importance of prioritizing school safety nationwide, highlighting the need for comprehensive measures beyond panic buttons, such as perimeter security.

Experts stress the significance of establishing clear protocols for responding to emergencies, underscoring the importance of integrating technology with effective policies. The ultimate goal remains the nationwide implementation of Alyssa’s Law to ensure a standardized approach to school safety.

While panic button systems primarily target potential gun violence threats, they have proven beneficial in addressing various medical emergencies within schools. These systems have been instrumental in swiftly responding to health-related incidents, such as cardiac arrests and seizures.

In Broward County, the SaferWatch app has been adopted by schools, facilitating seamless communication between school staff and law enforcement. The app’s features include emergency reporting, anonymous tip submission, and real-time monitoring of school premises through connected cameras.

Overall, the collaborative efforts between schools and law enforcement in Broward County serve as a model for enhancing school safety nationwide. By leveraging technology, proactive threat assessment, and community engagement, the initiative aims to create a secure learning environment for students and staff.

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