At this time of year, families ready themselves for a new school year. We hustle to gather supplies and clothing, hopeful for the success of our children and furthering their aspirations to accomplish great things.
We try to give them every opportunity and advantage for safety and success in the classroom. This certainly was true for Ilan and Lori Alhadeff, whose daughter Alyssa went off to school at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, two years ago.
Sadly, Alyssa was one of 17 people killed during a mass shooting at the school. Not long after the incident, Alyssa’s parents founded the national organization, Make Our Schools Safe. This organization brings attention to the vulnerabilities that schools face, and lobbies political entities for funds to assist in making schools safer.
Over the past 20 years, incidents of critical nature in our classrooms have become more common. As we look back at the incidents at Columbine and Sandy Hook as well as in Texas and Florida, these situations were all complicated with the delay of communication or inability to contact first responders quickly.
Active shooter incidents are typically over within 10-15 minutes, according to the Department of Homeland Security. The ability – or inability – to summon assistance directly impacts the response time of first responders and law enforcement who are needed to address the emergent situation and attend to those who may be in harm’s way or already injured.
To that end, state and federal leaders have authored legislation that addresses emergency signaling and communication directly from the classroom to first responders, thus providing the ability to summon assistance quickly, which in turn can save time and lives.
The legislation, named after Alyssa, mandates that all public elementary and secondary schools be equipped with silent panic alert systems to summon first responders directly from the classroom.
It has thus far been made law in Florida and New Jersey, and is under consideration in several other states and by the federal government. The federal legislation is currently out of committee and is ready to be enacted by both houses of Congress. It is expected to be quickly approved and ultimately, signed by the president.
There are also amendments to this legislation to include private, parochial, charter and higher education classroom environments.
While the legislation is much needed, there seems to be a funding gap, or a shortfall in the funding allocated for the successful deployment of such technology. Most of the states have allocated a fraction of what the expected costs will be to institute such a deployment.
Funding Available for Alyssa’s Law Implementation
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act addresses the safety and security of students throughout the educational system in the United States. And while the act doesn’t spell out the technology or processes necessary for keeping our students and staff members safe, it does allow local officials to decide what is needed to address issues that are preventing a safe and secure return to the classroom after COVID-19.
One such issue is emergency communication in the classroom. Alyssa’s Law addresses this directly, and the CARES Act provides funding for technologies and key initiatives aimed to keep students and staff safe when returning to school. This means an educational institution could use the federal funding available to invest in an interoperable communication platform that allows for instantaneous communication from the classroom to first responders and law enforcement.
Interoperable communications is a term that is often misunderstood and misconstrued. Interoperability allows for the merging of various signaling and communication over an encrypted network, available to all pertinent stakeholders in an emergent situation. It allows for the ability to merge several different two-way radio signals, cellular communications, data, video, drone and bodycam information, all on one network that’s unable to be monitored or disrupted by those who wish to cause harm.
Imagine being able to alert a building principal, a district office and first responders at once with one touch of a smart device. This allows schools to not only summon help in the event of a critical incident, but also allows for others in a position of authority to remove students and staff from harm’s way by providing guidance for evacuation – all with a single touch.
As Alyssa’s Law passes in several states and is in front of Congress for voting, schools can leverage the CARES Act funding vehicle to address emergency communications and a host of other vulnerabilities they currently face.
STANLEY Security has been at the forefront of addressing safety and security concerns surrounding COVID-19 and can provide the solutions and expertise you need to safely reopen your classrooms.
Please allow us to assist you in migrating your communications to an interoperable platform and helping you provide a safer environment for students, staff and visitors – not only through COVID-19, but for any and all emergent situations that may arise in the foreseeable future.
Click the button below to learn more about emergency communication and signaling.