TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/AP) — Alyssa’s Law, the Florida bill that requires all schools to have panic alarms is headed to Governor Ron DeSantis’ desk after the Florida Legislature passed the bill Tuesday evening.
The legislation is named after Alyssa Alhadeff, one of the 17 people killed during the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland on Feb. 14, 2018.
Alyssa’s mother, Lori Alhadeff, now a Broward County School Board member, helped lobby for the bill and said teachers would “be empowered to press a button and know that help will be on the way” if emergencies happen at schools.
The panic button, when activated, would simultaneously alert school staff and first responders to life-threatening campus emergencies.
This link between schools and law enforcement would reduce confusion that became apparent in the aftermath of the Parkland shooting.
A commission’s review of the shortcomings at Parkland documented how communications among first responders broke down. At times, antiquated radio systems were rendered useless because some channels became overloaded, or radios could not communicate across different channels and jurisdictions. Video cameras were not transmitting footage in real time.
“Radios were like bricks; they weren’t working,” said Lori Alhadeff. “We didn’t have panic buttons. If we had an Alyssa’s Alert, teachers would have seen it on their phones and would have known how to respond properly. They could have locked and barricaded their rooms, and got out of the line of fire.”
Without direct communication with authorities, teachers and staff were unsure if the commotion was part of a drill. Once aware of the danger, they were faced with life-and-death decisions — escape into hallways or find safe cover.
Similar bills have been filed in New York and Nebraska. Two proposals have also been introduce in Congress.
Last year, New Jersey became the first state to put a panic system in place.
The Florida measure comes with an $8 million appropriation intended to help schools put the system in place.
If signed into law by the governor, every public school, including charter campuses, would be required to establish a mobile panic button system — including a smartphone app — that would connect them directly with police and other emergency personnel.
Schools across the state’s 67 counties would need to have panic buttons in place by the 2021-22 school year.
Thirteen counties in Florida already are using panic alarms in schools.
(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)