PARKLAND (CBSMiami) – Lori Alhadeff turned the grief over the murder of her daughter Alyssa in Parkland in February 2018 into activism.
Following the tragedy that killed 17 people and injured 17 more at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, one of Alhadeff’s goals is to get panic alarms or panic buttons into every Florida public school.
“These panic buttons will save lives,” she said.
State Representative Michael Gottlieb, (D-District 98) has filed legislation to pass Alyssa’s Law, which would put a panic alarm in schools. He said the intent of the alarm is to allow a teacher or school employee to be able to communicate directly with law enforcement in the event of an active shooter or other emergency, increasing response time.
“It cuts down on the response time for law enforcement,” Gottlieb said. “It gives them greater direction. It tells them the need. It tells them do we have an active shooter? Do we have a medical situation?”
Several companies are filling this need. Rave Mobile Safety produces a smartphone application that is used in several Florida counties including Leon, Seminole, Brevard and Sarasota as well as Oklahoma, Louisiana, Delaware, Arkansas and the District of Columbia to protect schools. Chief Operating Officer Todd Miller said if someone presses the active shooter button in the app a call is made directly to 911 and important information is relayed to authorities like who is calling, their location and, if possible, floor plans and emergency response plans for the school. Miller said the app also immediately notifies other key stakeholders at a school like the school resource officers, teachers and staff.
“Our offer is unique is that it incorporates all those key stakeholders,” said Miller. “This is technology that we can put in everybody’s hands, basically leveraging the technology that we all have in our pockets today.”
A South Florida-based company, ASR Alert Systems, offers a button on a wall that when pressed sets off an audible alarm and strobe lights. Hector Delgado, company president, said they are currently doing a pilot program with a large South Florida school district and have panic buttons installed in warehouses, city halls and synagogues. He said their technology also immediately alerts 911 dispatchers and key people working at a school of a threat.
Alhadeff said this type of technology could’ve saved lives at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
“The kids on the 3rd floor might have lived if we had these panic buttons at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on February 14,” she said. “In an active shooter situation, seconds matter and we need to make sure that that is a direct link to law enforcement so they know exactly where the threat is.”
In the Parkland shooting, many 911 calls went to Coral Springs even though the shooting occurred in Parkland. The Commission that investigated the shooting found that transferring those calls to the lead agency — the Broward Sheriff’s Office — resulted in a delayed response.
Florida State Rep. Michael Gottlieb is sponsoring the legislation to put a panic alarm in all of Florida’s 4200 public schools. He said the cost to do that will be between $1,000-$5,000 per school, potentially adding up to $10-$20 million. Gottlieb hopes to pay for these panic alarms through unspent money from the state’s Guardian Program.
“I don’t really see that as being cost prohibitive when we’re talking about saving lives,” he said.
At this point the Florida House bill and a companion Senate bill are in committees at this point. There is a federal bill that remains in subcommittee in Washington and there’s been no movement on the bill since July. Alyssa’s Law did pass in New Jersey and became law there earlier this year.
Alhadeff, a Broward School Board member, is motivated by Alyssa and by the desire to prevent other people from experiencing her pain.
“I’m empowered by Alyssa’s spirit to be able to shout from the rooftops that we need this,” she said. “That we need to make sure this happens this legislative session and we need to make sure that when our kids go to school, they come home alive.”