What is Alyssa’s Law & How Can Life-Safety Technologies Keep Students Safer?

“Alyssa’s Law” is a piece of legislation that dictates that public schools implement lifesaving mass notification technology into their emergency response protocol. The law requires public schools to have silent panic alert systems connected directly to first responders and law enforcement agencies. The goal of implementing this technology is to reduce the lead time in responding to emergencies on school campuses.

The law was named after Alyssa Alhadeff, age 14, who was a victim of the Parkland, Florida tragedy at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in February of 2018. During the shooting a fire alarm was set off causing mass confusion as a previous fire drill had occurred earlier that day and students and faculty did not realize the urgency of the new situation. The blaring sound of the fire alarm, and the absence of any clear messaging to direct people to safety, led students and faculty to decide for themselves what actions to take during the six-minute siege.

This led to victims being shot in both classrooms and hallways as the shooter, 19-year old Nikolas Cruz, passed through the building from floor to floor. In the end, this mass shooting claimed 17 lives, and injured 17 others and became the deadliest high school shooting in U.S. history.

Confusion on campus was created in part by school employees being unsure as to who could issue a “Code Red” response to the unfolding situation. The “Code Red” call would have communicated a campus wide “lockdown” that would be understood to mean, shelter in place until more instructions are given. Locally, the sheriff department handling the tragedy was also widely criticized for staying outside the school instead of immediately addressing the gunman.

What is regrettably understood is that innocent lives were lost due to a lone gunman. But partial responsibility also lies in the preventable miscommunication, uncertainty and confusion that surrounded the handling of the crisis. However, out of tragedy often come change and with change progress. Since the 2018 shooting, many school districts across the state have pledged to adopt greater security measures.

Legislation’s Progress: Alyssa’s Law has already been passed in New Jersey and Florida and is rapidly gaining notice in several other states such as Nebraska, Arizona, New York and Texas. Since this tragedy, two Federal Bills have also been introduced and if passed would require each elementary and secondary school to implement silent alarm systems connected to first responders and law enforcement.

Implementing a silent alarm system would allow schools to discreetly signal a life-threatening situation or emergency directly to law enforcement. This would enable the authorities to be informed quickly, with less potential for exacerbating a dangerous situation, or creating confusion during crisis. When a recognized non-fire-related emergency is reported (such as an active shooter/ weather emergency/ abduction, fluid or gas leak) and after a fire pull station/alarm has been pulled accidentally or maliciously, having an emergency control override is imperative to redirect actions from fire evacuation to shelter in place or emergency lockdown protocols/ These protocols would be based on a previously completed risk assessment and approval from the local AHJ (Authority Having Jurisdiction). This single step is the essential life-saving requirement under NFPA 72 code since its 2010 publishing(reference NFPA 72, Chapter 24).

It is imperative to utilize technology to help mitigate scenarios and enable best outcomes in nonfire-related events.
Life-Safety technologies, such as Mass Notification Systems enable clear messaging to be delivered to direct people to safety via audio speakers and digital notifications. In addition, systems that provide silent panic buttons and central monitoring, pre-recorded announcements and fire alarm control panel integration are technologies that today’s schools truly cannot afford to pass up. To implement these technologies, emergency funds such as the Elementary and Secondary School emergency Relief (ESSER) and the Higher Education Emergency Relief fund (HEERF) were created to help keep schools safe with available funds for improving security systems. For additional information, visit Mercury Notifications at www.mercurynotifications.com

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