New N.J. State Law Requires Panic Alarms in Schools

Administrators striving to safeguard their schools know that how quickly police arrive on the scene makes a critical difference. Every second counts in an emergency.

Now, working with AFSA and local educators, New Jersey has enacted a law requiring public schools statewide to install panic alarms directly linked to local law enforcement.

Called “Alyssa’s Law,” it is named in memory of Alyssa Alhadeff, a 14-year-old New Jersey native who was one of the 17 people killed in the Parkland, Florida, high school shooting. New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy signed it into law Feb. 6, just before the first anniversary of the Parkland massacre.

“Coupled with security measures already in place, this law can increase the chances of defusing a bad situation without further harm to students and staff,” said Assemblyman Ralph Caputo, the chief sponsor of the legislation, in his press release. Caputo first introduced the idea in 2013 after the mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, only to see it stymied by then-Gov. Chris Christie.

“Assemblyman Caputo is a leader on school safety and deserves our appreciation for pushing this innovative approach for more than five years,” said AFSA Executive Vice President Leonard Pugliese, the former president of AFSA’s Newark local. “New Jersey schools will be safer because of his foresight and persistence.”

Under the law, the alarms will be silent in school buildings, so they don’t alert intruders or panic students, but they immediately will notify local law enforcement of an emergency. A flashing red emergency light also will be installed on the outside of school buildings.

“Especially during active shooter situations, police response time can be a matter of life and death,” said AFSA President Ernest Logan. “AFSA supports stricter federal and state gun laws, too, but New Jersey’s new law is a commonsense step that will enhance school safety. Alyssa’s Law is a model states nationwide should copy.”

The parents of the bill’s namesake, Ilan and Lori Alhadeff, echoed Logan’s call for widespread adoption of the mandate. “Hopefully other states will follow suit,” they told when the bill was signed into law.

Video of Gov. Murphy signing the bill into law.  In the video, bill sponsor Assemblyman Ralph Caputo speaks about the importance of the law.