Panic alarms now required in all New Jersey public schools

TRENTON, N.J. (WPVI) -- New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy signed into law a bill requiring the state's public schools to install so-called panic alarms.

Murphy signed the bill Wednesday.

It's being called Alyssa's law after 14-year-old Alyssa Alhadeff. She was a New Jersey native who died in the fatal high school shooting a year ago in Parkland, Florida.

Murphy, a Democrat, says the state "will do everything in our power" to prevent tragedies like the one in Parkland.

The legislation requires the state's roughly 2,500 public schools to install silent alarms that communicate life-threatening or emergency situations to law enforcement.
Some schools in south Jersey have had panic alarms for a number of years. That includes Washington Township High School, which has many more layers of security.

We spoke with schools superintendent Joe Bollendorf about their installation and goals for what's called the Sielox system.

"You don't want to create schools that mimic prisons, you want kids to be comfortable in their space, so you want to put in well-thought-out security measures," said Bollendorf.

Each of their schools is linked to the system online. Facilities manager Bob Schoenfeldt is one of catalysts behind operating it.

He says each school can be controlled with their phones.

"I can lock down every school from my phone," he said.

All school doors only open from the inside unless you have the credentials. Cameras they can monitor are placed throughout every district building.

Teachers have access to the program on their computers as well.

"Now if room 101 hits crisis, they can chat with the first responder and say 'I have a crisis in my room' and the first responder can chat back with them," said Debby McGrail of Washington Township Schools IT.

Legislative fiscal estimates said the project could cost between $2.5 million and $12.5 million.

The bill calls for tapping into $500 million in voter-approved bond funding as a source of revenue for the project.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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