(WSYR-TV)– A law recommending schools in New York State consider implementing a silent panic alarm system in their district is now awaiting Governor Hochul’s signature.
The New York State Assembly passed Alyssa’s Law on Saturday, named after 14-year-old Alyssa Alhadeff, one of the 17 victims of the 2018 school shooting in Parkland, Florida.
Retired Miami-Dade Schools Police Chief, Ian Moffett, responded to the Parkland shooting in the days and weeks following the nation’s third deadliest school shooting.
He set out to try and make sure technology was in place to better streamline communication between school districts and law enforcement during critical situations.
He quickly learned about SaferWatch, a mobile app that allows users to report information from their smartphone to law enforcement.
“Mobile is really the key because when you’re in an emergency situation you don’t know where you are, you don’t know if you’re going to be able to have the chance to punch a physical panic button, you may have to run and hide,” Geno Roefaro, CEO of SaferWatch said.
Since Alyssa’s Law was passed in Florida in 2020, thousands of schools in the state have partnered with SaferWatch to better equip their staff and students for emergencies. Now school districts in Central New York are looking to Florida as an example to consider implementing this system or a similar one in their school districts.
The SaferWatch app allows faculty and staff to report an active shooter, medical emergency, fire or explosion, or a crime in progress with a simple tap of a button on their smartphone. The system immediately notifies the 911 dispatchers and first responders. It also sends a notification to the entire school district so everyone in the building is aware of the incident and can take appropriate action.
“So simply pressing the panic button in SaferWatch all of that information is sent directly to 911, directly to first-responders that are nearby and it also notifies the people at that particular school that there’s an emergency taking place, so it streamlines the whole notification process,” Roefaro said.
Roefaro added that response times have been shortened on average by two and half minutes for schools using this technology.
The app also ensures appropriate information is sent to those in the community, making sure parents and loved ones are notified in real-time about an emergency unfolding at their child’s school.
“A lot of times when these incidents are occurring the public wants to know, hey where do I go, what do I do, what’s going on, so sending information our mass notification, having a parent in the community subscribe to what’s going on,”
Ian Moffett, Retired Miami-Dade Schools Police Chief
The app is also used for prevention, allowing anyone with an account to submit anonymous tips to law enforcement.
Moffett said this technology elevates the age-old saying “see something, say something” to include “send something.” The app allows students and staff to send pictures, videos, and text messages to law enforcement in real-time to give first-responders as much intelligence as possible to respond accordingly.
They’re hopeful this technology or similar systems will be brought to school districts in Central New York to allow for smooth and seamless communication during emergency situations.