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Panic Alert Apps In Schools Could Be Required Under Bill Sparked By The 2018 Parkland Shooting

woman bends down at memorial to light a candle.
Wilfredo Lee
AP Photo

If another active shooting happens, lawmakers want schools to be equipped with a panic alert system. It would be activated through a mobile app. The push for this technology comes after the second anniversary of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting.

Alyssa Alhadeff was killed during the 2018 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting. Her mother, Lori Alhadeff, has since become an advocate for school safety.

"My daughter Alyssa Alhadeff, a talented soccer player, should be deciding where to go to college this year. Unfortunately, she will never have that opportunity," Alhadeff says.

She is speaking in support of a bill that would require Florida public schools to use a panic alert system.

"This includes the sharing of live video feeds. Maps of the school. Connecting to 911 and police, fire, and school radios. Time equals life," Alhadeff says.

Woman stands with hands clasped in front of her. She is a in a girl's bedroom looking down at momentos.
Credit Brynn Anderson / AP Photo

The system could be activated through a mobile app. It must be able to transmit 9-1-1 calls and connect to first responders in a way that would allow them to coordinate in real-time. If passed, the act would be known as "Alyssa's Law."

"In an active shooter situation, it's not seconds that count but nanoseconds," says Sen. Lauren Book (D-Plantation).

Book has been serving on the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission. She is also the bill's sponsor.

"With constant communication and notification that something is wrong and where law enforcement can be mobilized will save lives. For this reason, the public safety commission has recommended the use of this technology to keep our kids safe," Book says.

pictures of a girl smiling.
Credit Brynn Anderson / AP Photo
Photographs of 14-year-old Alyssa Alhadeff, one of 17 people killed by a gunman who stalked the halls of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, sit on a table in her home on Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2019, in Parkland, Fla.

However, companies that make panic alarm systems are raising concerns. Juan Cardenal is with AlertPoint Security. He's asking lawmakers to require the system to notify students and staff—not just first responders when there is an emergency.

"I don't think it's clear enough as to making sure that everyone on campus is protected. We want to make sure that teachers, staff, obviously the students, and anybody who's hearing impaired or visually impaired are also protected."

Cardenal is also taking issue with how the state will contract with vendors. Only one will be chosen. Cardenal says districts need to be able to pick vendors based on their needs.

"Every school is very particular in their infrastructure and in some cases an app will work well assuming their Wi-Fi infrastructure is robust enough in other cases it may not," Cardenal says.

Girl holds mobile phone with picture on it.
Credit Adriana Gomez Licon / AP Photo
In this April 10, 2018 photo, Eden Hebron looks at a photo with her best friend Alyssa Alhadeff, while speaking about the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. Hebron was in a classroom where four students died, including Alhadeff.

Book says she's working on getting money set aside in the budget to pay for the system. A house version includes $8 million for the alert plan. Public school districts can use additional systems or strategies on top of the app, but they would have to pay out of pocket for those extra measures. Sen. Bill Montford (D-Tallahassee) asked whether these apps will work in rural districts with no cell service.

"Some of them are so isolated we want to make sure that everybody's covered," he says.

The Florida Department of Education, Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission will collaborate to make sure the apps work during emergencies.