TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senator Ronald L. Rice and Senate Education Chair M. Teresa Ruiz to require public elementary and secondary schools in New Jersey be equipped with a panic alarm and red emergency light for use in a school security emergencies was approved today by the Senate, sending it to the desk of the governor.
“When an emergency situation takes place in a school building, every second counts. Ensuring that school officials have the best tools available to contact law enforcement when they sense that students are at risk of being harmed is critical to protecting the safety and well-being of our children,” said Rice (D-Essex). “In this day and age, all school buildings should be equipped with this technology and if we can provide it we should.”
The bill (S-3098) 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 bill defines a panic alarm as a silent security system signal that can be manually activated to signal a life-threatening or emergency situation that requires a response from law enforcement.
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.
“We cannot predict the emergencies that school officials may be required to respond to during any given school year, but we can ensure they are prepared when particular situations arise,” said Senator Ruiz (D-Essex). “Making sure that all buildings are outfitted with a silent alarm will allow police and other emergency responders to be contacted at the first sign of a problem, while an emergency light will alert the surrounding community of potentially dangerous circumstances inside.”
The bill also requires that a red emergency light be affixed to the exterior of all public elementary and secondary school buildings in a highly visible location above or near the front entrance visible from the nearest public roadway. In the case of a school building that is not clearly visible from the nearest public roadway, the emergency light would be located on that public roadway. The light would be linked to the school’s panic alarm so that it turns on when the alarm is activated.
Under the bill, the full cost of these systems shall be funded by 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.
The bill was approved by the Assembly in December. The Senate approved it today by a vote of 37-1. It now heads to the governor’s desk.