State money will provide personal alarm systems to 4,000 teachers, staff members

CANTON — At the touch of a wearable button, more than 4,000 teachers and some staff members in 32 school districts and technical centers will soon be able to activate a personal safety alarm that’s linked to police, firefighters and medical providers,

State Sen. Patricia Ritchie, R-Heuvelton, announced Monday morning at Canton’s McKenney Middle School that she’s secured $500,000 in state funding to pay for personal safety alarms for all the school districts within in her 48th state Senate District. The money will come from the state’s Military Base Retention Fund.

The idea is that teachers or other key staff members will activate their button if a fight breaks out or if there’s a fire, medical situation or dangerous emergency.

“This gives schools another tool in their tool boxes and help provide peace of mind,” Ritchie said. “In the best case scenario, no one will ever have to use it.”

The personal safety devices will be linked to units in school offices which then immediately alert first responders including police, firefighters and medical providers. The office units identify where in the school building the button was pushed, including specific classrooms. The system also activates blinking yellow lights and a buzzer.

The funding will be awarded to St. Lawrence-Lewis BOCES, Jefferson-Lewis BOCES and Oswego CiTi BOCES and then distributed to school districts that fall within the 48th Senate District boundaries.

Two additional school districts, Copenhagen and Massena, will also receive the personal alarms because some of their students reside in her district. The senator said South Jefferson Central School already uses personal alarm devices.

Ritchie said she came up with the idea while touring correctional facilities in her district where the personal alarms are worn by corrections staff.

The small buttons can be worn on a neck lanyard, a belt buckle or attached to a pocket. When the button is pushed it will activate a device that will identify the specific classroom where the emergency is taking place.

“Unfortunately, instances of threats and danger continue to plague schools across our country, and central and northern New York has not been immune,” Ritchie said. “The very last thing our parents, children and school staff members should have to worry about during the school day is safety.”

This school year, some school districts hired armed school resource offices, including Canton and Potsdam central schools.

Ashley Coffey, Canton’s SRO, said the system should improve response time in case of emergencies.

“Every second counts when it comes to law enforcement,” she said.

Brian Dwyer, a spokesman for Ritchie, said the three BOCES involved will put out bids for companies interested in providing the devices. School officials hope they arrive before the end of this school year.

“One of the main goals of the Canton Central School District is to foster a welcoming and safe learning environment for our students and staff,” said Canton School Superintendent Ronald Burke. “There are a number of ways to accomplish that, and one of them is ensuring our students, staff and parents know that our school will be prepared to react immediately to an emergency. I want to thank Senator Ritchie for helping provide our community and our neighboring communities an important peace of mind.”

St.Lawrence-Lewis BOCES Superintendent Thomas Burns said being proactive is the best approach to school safety.

“School safety is top of mind for all of us in public education and we appreciate the senator’s continued dedication to improve upon the existing safety measures in our school buildings,” Burns said.

Stephen Todd, Jefferson-Lewis BOCES superintendent, said the devices will keep students and school staff members safer.

“School safety is a complex problem, calling for a complex series of efforts and tools,” he said.

CiTi BOCES Superintendent Chris Todd said allowing teachers and staff the opportunity to alert authorities with the push of a button could be the difference in saving a life.