PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — Following the Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School shooting that took the lives of 17 students and staff members, strides have been made across the state to improve how law enforcement responds to emergencies on school campuses.
One major change that came following the Parkland shooting is Alyssa’s Law, named after 14-year-old Alyssa Alhadeff, which requires every Florida school to have a mobile panic alert system that serves as an electronic link between schools and first responders.
While school districts have their choice of programs they can use, schools in Pinellas, Broward, Miami-Dade, Palm Beach and Orange counties use the panic alert system SaferWatch.
It works as both a threat reporting app for students and staff, and a mobile emergency alert system.
SaferWatch CEO Geno Roefaro said since the Parkland shooting, the system has helped to prevent 12 potentially deadly situations.
“Everything from a student who had a planned list of people he wanted to kill, all the way to someone who went and purchased the weapons he wanted to use. We’ve been able to stop and prevent the incident,” Roefaro said.
Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, the chairman of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Public Safety Commission, said the new reporting system works well, but the main issue is the number of staff not using them.
“You have thousands of people who work in Pinellas County schools and schools across Florida and not everyone has the app on their phone,” Gualtieri said. “One of the reasons for that is people are reluctant to put it on their phone. I don’t think they should be reluctant, but we really need more people to have it to engage more and that’s really the improvement that’s needed.”
So far, SaferWatch is in over 2,000 schools in the state of Florida. The DOE lists several programs a school district can use to comply with Alyssa’s Law, which took effect in the 2021-2022 school year.