TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Alyssa’s Law, a 2020 law mandating silent panic alarms and electronic links between schools and Florida law enforcement will see its provisions in action in just under a month as the 2021-2022 school year starts.
On Aug. 10, schools in Florida will be required to have the alert systems in-place in case of life-threatening campus emergencies in response to the tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in 2018.
The law, named for Alyssa Alhadeff, a 14-year-old victim of the shooting, aims to help prevent tragedies like the one in Parkland by improving communications between schools and law enforcement, and by providing a panic button to use in case of emergency.
Alhadeff’s mother, Lori Alhadeff, made a strong push for the legislation after a Florida Department of Law Enforcement examination of the Parkland tragedy found communication failures occurred due to overloaded, old communication channels and a breakdown of communication among first responders.
“Radios were like bricks; they weren’t working,” Ms. Alhadeff told the Associated Press in March 2020. “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.”
The bill adds panic buttons to every classroom, in case of emergency.
Under Alyssa’s Law, public schools, including charter schools, must implement mobile panic alert systems to connect “diverse emergency services technologies” to make sure first responder agencies can coordinate in real-time and integrate with local public safety infrastructure for 911 calls and mobile activations. The law orders the systems be in place for the 2021-2022 school year.
The measure was approved unanimously by the Florida House of Representatives and the Florida Senate in 2020, and was signed into law by Governor Ron DeSantis. Now, in 2021, the law’s effects will be put in place for the new school year.
The 2020-2021 General Appropriations Act set aside funding to pay for the new systems, and the Department of Education is required to coordinate with the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission, the FDLE, and the Florida Division of Emergency Management to implement the system chosen for the alerts.
The state set aside $2,000 for each school campus, traditional or charter, for implementation.
As part of the Alyssa’s Alert implementation, the FLDOE provides a list of vendors approved for the purchase and installation of the alert systems.