What Is Alyssa’s Law?
On February 14, 2018, 17 students from Stoneman Douglas High School lost their lives in one of the most tragic school shootings to ravage this country. Among the victims of this tragedy was 14-year-old Alyssa Alhadeff. Her tragic death led to the creation of “Alyssa’s Law.” This legislation, named in her honor, followed an investigation that cited “insufficient response times” as a contributing factor to the fatalities that day – and has led to numerous discussions on the comprehensiveness of school security systems.
Alyssa’s Law takes a preventative measure against potentially violent threats, by mandating that public elementary and secondary school buildings are equipped with warning lights and silent panic alarms (or alternative emergency mechanisms approved by The Department of Education) that directly notify law enforcement in case of an emergency.
What Does a Panic Alarm Entail?
Alyssa’s Law defines a panic alarm as a “silent security system signal generated by the manual activation of a device intended to signal a life-threatening or emergency situation requiring a response from law enforcement.” When implementing a panic alarm system, administrators should ensure that their selected vendors are compliant with Alyssa’s Law, which requires that they are directly linked to law enforcement. Public and charter schools in Florida must adhere to specific legislation requirements, and activate a mobile panic alert system. The system needs to include aspects which:
- Connects diverse emergency services technologies
- Ensures real-time coordination between multiple first responder agencies
- Integrates with local public safety answering point infrastructure to transmit 911 calls and mobile activations
- Alerts appropriate Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP) for the jurisdiction of the location of the device.
Where is This Legislation in Effect, and How Can Schools Prepare?
In February 2019, Alyssa’s Law was signed into legislation in New Jersey and was recently passed in Florida, to go into effect by the 2021-2022 school year. The legislation has also been proposed in New York, Nebraska, and Arizona, and was introduced to Congress on a federal level in October 2019.
Each year, Alyssa’s Law becomes even more crucial for states to implement, as gun violence in schools continues to be at the forefront of concerns from school administrators, school resource officers, parents and the general public. U.S. school shootings statistics from 2016 to 2018 demonstrate the frequency and severity of active shootings, and with schools starting to reopen, schools must prioritize ways to best protect their students, staff and visitors from such threats.
Whether or not your school is immediately affected by this legislation, what’s clear is that administrators and other security personnel need to conduct a risk assessment of their current protocols and examine how to implement panic alarms into their existing school security systems. By taking proactive measures, schools can significantly minimize the potential for tragedy to strike.