Proposed bill would help Indiana schools get emergency alert systems to protect students

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- A proposed law making its way through the Indiana Statehouse could provide a way for Indiana schools to get state-of-the-art technology to protect students. House Bill 1225 passed the House Public Safety Committee unanimously Tuesday.

The bill makes it easier for schools to afford emergency alert systems in case of a problem like an active shooter, and already it’s getting bipartisan support.

Public safety officials said an emergency alert system can give schools one more tool they need to keep kids safe. The problem is, systems are typically expensive, with some costing school districts around $11,000 a year. The goal of this bill though would be to give schools access to grants that would help them fund these programs.

On May 25, 2018, every second mattered when a student open fired at Noblesville West Middle School, shooting teacher Jason Seaman and student Ella Whistler.

First responders were there in minutes, but it raises the question: What more can be done to save time when an emergency like that is playing out?

“We did not have any alerting issues when our incident occurred,” said Noblesville Police Chief Kevin Jowitt, “but there are places in the state that do not have a system in place to allow rapid alerting.”

Jowitt remembers that day and spoke Tuesday morning about the importance of rapid response systems, urging lawmakers to pass House Bill 1225.

“I think the important thing is this provides a resource to every school system in the state,” said Jowitt.

The bill creates a grant to help school systems fund rapid emergency alert systems--app-based platforms that can notify all nearby police officers of an emergency with the touch of a button. The platforms bypass even small amounts of time lost when calling 911.

“With this app, it goes directly to the units so they eliminate that delay,” said State Rep. Randy Frye (R-Versailles).

But finding the money to fund a system like this, especially for rural communities, can be tough.

“This just provides an opportunity to get a very effective system and use grant funding for school systems and sheriff's departments that need that funding assistance,” said Jowitt.

If the bill passes as it’s written now, the Indiana Department of Homeland Security would administer those grants. That could change depending on which version of this bill is finally voted on.

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