Illinois schools have installed active-shooter alarms — will that do anything?

Korin Miller

More than 20 schools in Illinois have installed active-shooter alarms that, when pulled, notify police that a shooter is on school premises. Users activate the security system — which is similar to a fire alarm, according to the Chicago Tribune — by removing the pull alarm’s plastic cover and pushing the alarm’s lever in and down. That alerts BluePoint (its maker) and local police. In addition to the wall-mounted boxes, some staffers can activate the alarm with a special fob they wear around their neck.

The security systems aren’t cheap: One school spent about $90,000 to install 30 alarms around their campuses and an additional $40,000 on new security cameras, the Tribune says.

Quite a few schools in Illinois have installed “shooter alarms” to alert students when an active shooter is on the premises. The alarms are blue and similar in design to fire alarms. (Twitter: @BluePoint_Alert)

Henry Klucznik, a fifth grader at St. Benedict’s Preparatory School in Chicago, told the Tribune that he is only “two to three seconds” away from the closest box. “I feel a lot safer than I used to,” he said.

There are a few pros to having a system like this, John Matthews, executive director of the Community Safety Institute and a former chief of police, tells Yahoo Lifestyle: “It may enable people to take cover quicker, and it may help police get there faster.” However, he adds, at that point “you’ve already got an active shooter in your school. There’s already something bad happening.”

There are other systems available that work in a similar way, Matthews says: Some have panic buttons that teachers can press; others have phone apps that connect a teacher with the school’s office to let administration know what’s going on. “But the problem is that they’re all reactive,” Matthews says. “Our focus and attention needs to be on preventing these situations.”

“Every single one of school shooters had many warning signs — schools, teachers, students, and counselors knew about the troubled student, and because systems weren’t in place to address it, we ended up with a horrible situation,” Matthews says. There’s “nothing wrong” with these notification systems, he says, but schools will likely benefit more from “counseling and intervention systems” put in place.

“We’ve got to figure out how to stop these things from happening,” Matthews says. “Responding to them is great, but we’ve got to end these things.”

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