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Florida Schools to Install Mobile Panic Alert Systems

A state law passed in June will require schools to use mobile or Bluetooth-enabled alert systems for staff to report an active shooter, medical issue or other threat to first responders in real time.

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(TNS) — Schools in Florida will be required to add another layer of security to their operations in the coming 2021-22 school year.

Alyssa's Law, which passed in June 2020, mandates that all Florida public schools, including charters, be outfitted with mobile panic alert systems by the start of classes this year.

Named after Alyssa Alhadeff, a victim of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in February 2018, schools must implement a plan to use a mobile or Bluetooth-enabled system for staff to report an emergency — be it a medical issue, active shooter or other threat — in real time so that first-responders are sent to the campus immediately.

At a school board workshop Tuesday, Michael Strausbaugh, a safety and security specialist with the St. Johns County Schools, outlined two different options to fulfill the requirement.

One is a card-based system embedded with Bluetooth technology. Staffers would wear the cards, which feature a button, on lanyards with their district ID badges. With the push of a button, the user can silently initiate a lockdown from anywhere on campus.

If the user pressed the button eight times, it would indicate an active shooter or other potentially dangerous situation on campus; if pressed three times, it would alert responders to a medical emergency.

Coverage would extend to the surrounding perimeter fencing of any district campus.

Substitute teachers would receive a temporary badge.

The system, offered through the Centegix company, would cost the district $35,000 per facility, for a total cost of nearly $1.5 million, for a five-year contract.

That cost is negotiable should the school district decide to opt for a contract less than five years.

With a battery life of between three and five years, batteries would also have to be updated over time at an additional cost to the district.

The other option Strausbaugh presented was an app-based system that district employees would have to upload and enact on their own cellphones.

The company offering the service, Intrado, already handles the school district's email School Messenger service to the school community.

But Strausbaugh pointed out that the responsibility of tapping into the system would fall upon employees who have to voluntarily sign up for the app on their own phones. In addition, 100% coverage could not be guaranteed on each school campus given any "dead zones" in cell carrier service.

The Intrado system would not require any additional funding on the part of the school district.

The school board has two more meetings (Aug. 3 and Aug. 10) to approve either option to fulfill the state alert system mandate.

©2021 The St. Augustine Record, Fla. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.