A bill that would set up a mandatory panic alert system in Florida’s public schools is moving to its final committee stop after the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Education approved the measure Tuesday.
The legislation (SB 70) moved forward after the committee adopted a strike-all amendment. That amendment states “each public school, including charter schools, shall implement an interoperable mobile panic alert system capable of connecting diverse emergency services technologies to ensure real-time coordination between multiple first responders.”
The mobile alert system would be set up following a bidding process for a statewide contract. The Department of Education in consultation with the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement would solicit that contract.
Under the bill, schools may also set up additional strategies or systems on their own.
The system would be called “Alyssa’s Alert.” It’s named after Alyssa Alhadeff, one of 17 people murdered during the 2018 attack at Broward County’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
“As I’ve shared in previous committees, Alyssa’s legacy lives on in many ways, including the kindness she spread during her short life and through her mother’s unwavering advocacy,” Book said in introducing the bill, before praising Alyssa’s mother’s advocacy.
“Lori Alhadeff has turned unbearable grief into committed action, fighting to make schools safer so that other mothers don’t have to experience the impossible pain that I know that she endures daily,” Book said.
The proposed system is aimed at immediately alerting first responders regarding a potential emergency situation. Alhadeff, who now serves on the Broward County School Board, spoke on behalf of the bill at Tuesday’s hearing.
“In a life-threatening emergency, seconds matter,” Alhadeff said.
“A panic button clearly communicates an emergency by sending mass notification to all on campus, ensuring that students and teachers can respond rapidly and respond appropriately — whether to lock down or evacuate away from the threat. Alyssa’s Alert will get law enforcement on the scene as quickly as possible and save lives.”
Book’s measure has already been approved by the Infrastructure and Security Committee. The Appropriations Committee is scheduled to hear the bill Thursday.
“Alyssa’s Alert will make sure that children get the help that they need as quickly as possible,” Book said in closing.
“It is unfortunate that we’re in this place and in this space, but I do believe that this is going to do a lot to keep children safe.”