Bill sponsored by Caputo, Tucker, Quijano, Vainieri Huttle, Sumter & McKnight
(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Ralph R. Caputo, Cleopatra Tucker, Annette Quijano, Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Shavonda Sumter and Angela McKnight to require public elementary and secondary schools in New Jersey to install panic alarms for use in security emergencies received final legislative approval Monday and now heads to the governor’s desk.
The bill is named after Alyssa Alhadeff, a 14-year old student and former Woodcliff Lake resident who was among the 17 people killed during the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida.
“Our children deserve the chance to learn in peace,” said Caputo (D-Essex). “I am not suggesting this will stop all security threats, but coupled with security measures already in place, it can increase the chances of diffusing a bad situation without further harm to students and staff.”
“We have to utilize all sensible measures available to us to help our schools defend themselves against an attack,” said Tucker (D-Essex). “These systems help give students, parents and staff the peace of mind that in the case of an emergency, there is a direct link to local law enforcement.”
“A quick response from law enforcement to an emergency can make all the difference in the outcome,” said Quijano (D-Union). “We owe it to these children and the adults charged with their care to give them as much help as possible, if they are ever confronted with a life and death situation.”
“In an emergency, every minute counts. It is particularly crucial when children are involved,” said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). “Too many schools have been targeted and too many innocent people have paid the price. Beefing up school security to better protect our children is a necessity.”
“Boosting security measures with a silent alarm that would notify law enforcement as soon as it is activated could help reduce the potential for greater harm in an emergency,” said Sumter (D-Passaic/Bergen). “Any measure that can help lessen this risk is an investment worth making.”
“There is no single, quick fix to eliminate the threat violence in our schools. But there are steps we can take to better protect students and staff if they are ever faced with a dangerous situation. This is one of them,” said McKnight (D-Hudson). “This is an investment worth making.”
The bill (A-764) requires that all public elementary and secondary schools be equipped with a panic alarm for use in a school security emergency including, but not limited to, a non-fire evacuation, lockdown, or active shooter situation. The alarm would be an addition to existing security systems.
The alarm, which would not be audible within the school building, must be directly linked to local law enforcement and immediately transmit a signal or message to the authorities upon activation. In the case of a school building located in a municipality where there is no police department, the panic alarm would be linked to a location designated by the Superintendent of State Police.
Under the bill, a panic alarm must adhere to nationally recognized industry standards, including the standards of the National Fire Protection Association and Underwriters Laboratories. In addition, the panic alarm must be installed solely by a person licensed to engage in the alarm business in accordance with current law. However, the bill would allow a school district to equip its elementary and secondary school buildings with an emergency mechanism that is an alternative to a panic alarm if the mechanism is approved by the Department of Education.
Lastly, under the bill, the proceeds of bonds authorized to be issued to fund the state share of the costs of Schools Development Authority district school facilities projects or the state share of the costs of school facilities projects in all other districts, including county vocational school districts, be used to fund the full cost of the panic alarms or an alternative emergency mechanisms approved by the department. If a school district installed a panic alarm or approved alternative emergency mechanism prior to the effective date of the bill, then the school district may be reimbursed for those costs.
The bill was approved 76-0 by the Assembly today, and 38-1 by the Senate on June 21.
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