Government Technology

Latest Move in School Safety? A Panic Button.

April 4, 2013 By

It's a nightmare scenario for any school: A shooter forces his way onto the premises and opens fire. But if such an event were to happen at one of the 14 public and private schools in Marietta, Ga., teachers and administrators can now press a panic button that directly alerts the authorities.

The idea of a panic button had been in discussion in Marietta for a while, says David Baldwin, an officer at the Marietta Police Department, but the December tragedy in Newtown, Conn., which left 20 elementary school students dead, put the policy on a fast track. Installation of the buttons, which cost about $5,000 altogether, began in January. Installation and testing are now complete, and the buttons are ready to use -- although administrators hope they never have to.

“Newtown really accelerated a lot of things. Things that might have been a little further down the road were pushed to the front of the line,” Baldwin says. “One of those things was the panic buttons.”

The Marietta police department isn’t releasing the exact number or locations of the panic buttons that were installed. But they have been outfitted with protections to make sure they aren’t accidentally pressed, Baldwin says, and the buttons are located in places where only teachers and administrators can access them.

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David W. Harrison    |    Commented April 5, 2013

We have numerous panic buttons installed in critical areas, but have decided to minimize the number of them. What we have been successful with is we have a SARA (Situational Awareness Response Assistant) system installed. In various locations on campus we have blue pull stations (similar to a fire pull station) with LOCKDOWN on them. If anyone pulls this and engages this, our siren goes off, a lockdown text alert is sent out to over 8,000 subscribers and our telephones begin broadcasting lockdown messages! We test this system monthly! Unique but we feel safer here at Va Western Community College...

Charles Kerr    |    Commented April 5, 2013

Panic Buttons are one of those ideas where you have to wonder why it wasn't being done already. But! It is going to be a bad thing if this is the only thing that gets done. Just putting in a panic button and thinking the police can take care of the rest of it is a recipe for disaster because the types of emergencies a school might encounter are surprisingly large and varied. A madman with a gun is only one thing that might threaten a school so trying to solve this one problem and calling it done is going to set up a situation where someone else is going to get hurt.

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