IE 11 Not Supported

For optimal browsing, we recommend Chrome, Firefox or Safari browsers.

Pa. Senators Support Bill to Require School Panic Alarms

Pennsylvania state senators are planning to introduce Alyssa's Law, which would require all public schools to be equipped with silent panic alarms that directly notify law enforcement of school-based emergencies.

panic button under desk
(TNS) — On Feb. 14, 2018, shots echoed through the hallways at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. A former student, gunman Nikolas Cruz, then 19, killed 17 people and injured another 17.

Hoping to prevent mass casualties at schools in Pennsylvania, state Sens. Art Haywood (D-Montgomery) and Tracy Pennycuick (R-Montgomery) announced they will introduce Alyssa's Law. The legislation addresses law enforcement response time when a life-threatening emergency occurs at a school. The bill would require all public schools to be equipped with silent panic alarms that directly notify law enforcement in the event of a school-based emergency. The law could potentially save lives during emergencies.

Alyssa's Law is named in honor of Alyssa Alhadeff, 14, a Parkland victim. Due to her family's advocacy and their organization, Make Our Schools Safe, Alyssa's Law has been signed into law in five other states: Florida, New Jersey, New York, Tennessee and Texas. Several other state legislatures are currently working to pass it.

Haywood and Pennycuick hope the legislation will swiftly pass the General Assembly, ultimately improving emergency response protocols within schools across the commonwealth and ensuring our students are protected during life-threatening emergencies.

"This legislation is a critical step toward ensuring the safety of the commonwealth's students," said Haywood. "Installing panic buttons in schools allows for direct connection to local law enforcement, in turn allowing police to respond faster in the event of an emergency. I am hopeful that Pennsylvania will soon join the growing list of states that have enacted this common-sense and lifesaving measure."

"When a dangerous incident occurs on school grounds, the most rapid response possible can save lives," Pennycuick said. "We owe it to our children and teachers to use every method available to give them the best chance to get through these emergencies unharmed."

In March, state Rep. Johanny Cepeda-Freytiz (D-Berks) introduced a version of Alyssa's Law in the House.

And Delaware County installed a silent alarm system, DelPass, in all public and private schools in 2013.

"We're a big fan of it," said Radnor Police Superintendent Chris Flanagan. "It allows with the touch of a button, the dispatcher to tune in. And I think the future would be that it can see, that it'll have a television camera. It only turns on when activated. And what we love is the dispatcher can hear what's going on. It's really handy."

State Rep. Lisa Borowski (D-Newtown Square) said, "There are many schools across the commonwealth that don't have panic buttons." She noted the law will not be a mandate for school districts and it will include state funding for the devices. "The legislation has to work across the commonwealth," she said.

The system has been activated a few times in the county, but all turned out not to be active shooter situations, he said.

"Today, we are one step closer to America's students being more likely to come home at the end of the day. Pennsylvania is proving itself to be a leader in school safety through this legislation," said Lori Alhadeff, co-founder of MOSS and Alyssa Alhadeff's mother. "Had my daughter's school had panic alarms in the classroom, Alyssa might still be here today.

Jaidyn Turner, Alyssa Alhadeff's cousin, added, "If in passing Alyssa's Law we are able to save one life it will have been worth it, because students deserve to go to school every day and know they are safe no matter what situations arise."

©2024 Delaware Valley Journal, West Chester, Pa. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.