On Governor Chris Christie's desk in Trenton is an important bill intended to improve emergency response to New Jersey public elementary and secondary schools. Senate Bill 2091 requires that each building shall be equipped with at least one 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 shall not be audible within the school building and each building shall be equipped with an emergency light that is linked to the school's panic alarm and which turns on when the panic alarm is activated.
As a volunteer First Responder in my hometown of Ramsey for over 25 years, I know that the every second counts when an emergency is happening in our schools. Schools in Ramsey, as in most communities, are the highest occupancy buildings we have, often with thousands of employees and students on the scene. The faster police and firefighters can be alerted that an emergency is occurring, the faster they can get there. The FBI recently reported that the median response time for law enforcement to an active shooter event is three minutes. For people inside the building, those three minutes will seem like three hours.
Once on the scene, police and firefighters have to find the threat, rescue the trapped and treat the injured as fast as possible. Unfortunately Senate Bill 2091 doesn't seem to help with that critical component of emergency response to our schools. A single panic button may alert First Responders that something is happening at the school, but it does little to show them where they need to go when they get there.
In February of 2013, we took a vastly different approach to improving emergency response to schools, by creating Share911.com, a social network just for emergencies. It enables every school administrator and employee to use their smart phone, tablet or computer to directly alert police and firefighters, but instead of just one "panic button" every employee has one on their phone. And Share911.com enables every employee to share their exact location in the building and what is happening where they are, identifying where the threat was last seen, where people are in need of rescue and where injured persons are located. This information is displayed in real-time for First Responders and for everyone in the building, to enable them to see what is happening around them.
We urge Governor Chris Christie to sign this bill into law because one panic button is better than no panic buttons, but we encourage New Jersey schools to explore more robust solutions such as Share911.com to give First Responders the tools they need to do their job.