In response to the tragic Newtown shooting, schools across the country have begun taking steps to install “panic buttons” to alert police of an emergency. “If something happens at a school, we don’t have to rely on somebody to call 9-1-1,” said David Baldwin, a police officer in Marietta, Ga., where local schools became the latest to install the buttons. “They can actually hit this panic button and it immediately alerts the 9-1-1 center who immediately dispatches the police.”
He said the department had discussed implementing the system prior to the December shooting, but the event prompted authorities to act quickly and get it done. Other schools in Arizona, Connecticut, Florida, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, Ohio, and Pennsylvania are considering or already have plans to install panic buttons in direct response to the shooting. Most plans will feature hidden panic buttons placed throughout the school for its administrators and teachers.
At Orange Beach Elementary School in Alabama, however, its principal and all its teachers will be given panic buttons they can wear around their necks to bring with them around the school or outside. According to a local report, blue lights will go off throughout the school and it will be placed on lockdown mode with children locked inside their classrooms when the button is pushed.
Schools are also pushing for measures such as surveillance cameras and security guards, and encouraging local authorities to do daily “walk-throughs” of schools as part of their patrols. “It is a sad commentary that it has come down to this, because I remember when school was one of the safest places you could be in,” said a New Jersey police chief. “Unfortunately, so much has changed.”