Red-and-yellow panic buttons will be installed within the interior of all Delaware County schools, including those in the Haverford School District, this upcoming fall.
Panic buttons will be installed in approximately 230 Delaware County public, private and parochial, K-12 schools to ensure a safer, more efficient emergency-response procedure.
With Delaware County Panic Alarm School System (DelPASS), alerting police of a school emergency is as simple as the press of a button, reducing the response time when every second counts.
First, school administrators press the button to activate it, which automatically contacts the 911 Center with an instantaneous message including the school name, address and device location. Then, police are dispatched directly to the school while the 911 Center is able to listen to the sounds of the incident through a one-way intercom.
When police arrive on the scene, they deem the alert as a false alarm or as an active event, leading to the request of additional police or SWAT team members and a message to designated leaders and schools in the surrounding area.
“We expect that multiple officials will enter at the same time,” said District Attorney Whelan at the Friday meeting. “No one wants our schools to be a fortress, but we’re doing the best we can.”
The buttons will be installed and shielded by a plastic cover, similar to that which contains fire alarms in many schools, in a secure location decided upon by respective school administrators. School superintendents, such as the principal and assistant principal, will have the foremost responsibility to activate the button should the need arise, followed by a hierarchy of other appointed individuals. The choice of whether to install the button remains with the respective schools, though no schools have expressed disapproval according to Councilman Dave White.
The system was developed as a reaction to the Sandy Hook shooting massacre in Connecticut last December.
“Six months ago, we were all shocked and saddened by the shooting at Sandy Hook,” said County Council Chairman Tom McGarrigle, calling the tragedy a “9/11 moment for schools.”
The price of DelPASS is approximately $800 per unit, which includes both the physical device and its installation. The schools are responsible for providing and maintaining the direct phone line, in addition to training the school staff to properly use the buttons. The system was funded through a $188,600 grant from the Southeast Pennsylvania Regional Task Force.
“No parent ever expects that when a child leaves that day he may not come home,” said Whelan. He noted the lengthy conversation that may take place between a 911 call-taker and dialer, including questions and answers regarding the nature of the incident, details of the incident and presence of weapons.
“The minutes spent getting information could be used to respond,” he said.The new system was developed by the Delaware County Intermediate Unit, in cooperation with the County Council, local school administrations and law enforcement.