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School board approves panic alarm equipment

By MEGHAN BRADBURY - | Apr 29, 2021

Lee County teachers and staff will be equipped with panic alarm equipment beginning on Aug. 1.

The Centegix Crisis Alert agreement approved by the School Board of Lee County this week provides the panic alarm equipment, training and services from Aug. 1 through July 31, 2026 at a cost not to exceed $3,845,840.

The action is a result of Senate Bill 70, Alyssa’s Law, which Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law in 2020. According to the statute, school districts are required to implement a panic alarm system, which connects school districts directly to law enforcement, so they can respond faster in the event of a severe on-campus incident.

The alert will be provided to staff using a wireless card that can be worn with the employee’s ID badge.

Technology Operations Executive Director Dwayne Alton said there are two districts in Florida that are in implementation already, as most districts took a wait- and-see approach.

“It’s new in Florida because of the requirements for Alyssa Law,” he said, adding that there are 50-plus districts in Georgia using the technology.

The district decided to use Centegix due to its simplicity.

Alton said during a panic situation that might be a direct danger to students, a system needs to be operated with a “reptilian brain,” — to “react quickly and do it simply.”

The biggest challenge the district faced in finding a system was one that was not an app-based system. The district did not want to go that route because teachers and staff would have to download the app to their personal phones, unlock their phone and trigger the app before an alert was set.

“What I am wearing is the device,” he said, showing board members the back of his ID card. “You press a button on the back and it automatically sends to 911 that an intruder is on campus.”

In addition, the technology can also show where the alert is coming from, down to the exact room.

“We also looked for a system that would be able to work with minimal dependence on additional infrastructure. This is cleverly designed to use minimal infrastructure. If there are failure points in the school, this will continue to work,” Alton said.

The agreement will include installation of hardware and software for all schools, configuration, training, support, law enforcement integration services, monitoring services, as well as consumables to utilize the system.

The company also automatically dispatches and repairs units without having district staff involved, which he said was a huge advantage to have a support staff behind the equipment.