Pennsylvania county to install panic buttons in schools

Katie LaPotin, Red Alert Politics, June 24, 2013

Students, teachers and faculty at schools in Delaware County, Pa. will return in September to find their buildings have been equipped with panic buttons as a response mechanism to an attack by an armed intruder.

According to CBS Philadelphia, the suburban Philadelphia county began discussing the idea of the Delaware County Panic Alarm School System program just two days after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting last December.

“That was certainly not the first school shooting that shattered our nation, but it certainly the one that caused us to reexamine our security measures,” Delaware County Council Chairman Tom McGarrigle told CBS Philadelphia.

He added that selected staffers in every school will be instructed in how to use the panic button, which will be connected via a dedicated phone line directly to a 911 operator.

“The person doesn’t have to speak, doesn’t have to find a phone or cell phone,” McGarrigle added. “They don’t have to figure out what to say or report the location.  They simply push the red button.”

Police will automatically be dispatched if the button is pushed. There is also a one-way intercom in the panic button so the 911 operator can hear what’s going on inside the school.

“All law enforcement will come once that button is pushed. It will save minutes and it will save lives,” Jack Whelan, the Delaware County district attorney, told ABC Philadelphia.

The county is funding the panic button for all 230 of its public, parochial and private schools thanks to the help of a $188,000 state grant. While schools aren’t required to have the panic button installed, few schools are expected to decline it.

For the most part parents seem to be on board with the concept.

“This is the best thing they can do,” Marianne Rhodes told CBS Philadelphia.  “I am so glad they got the grant. I am so glad they are putting it to good use, immediately.”

“We need to do something to protect the children and the teachers and it’s about time,” Lisa Bambach added.

According to Pennsylvania Department of Education spokesman Tim Eller, Delaware County is the “first county statewide that has done something like this with panic buttons in every school on a countywide basis.”


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