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Calif. Bill Would Require Panic Alarms In Schools

SACRAMENTO (AP) — Lawmakers gave preliminary approval Wednesday to a bill that would require panic alarms to be installed throughout school campuses in California, but only if the federal government pays for it.

AB1076 by Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen, R-Modesto, would require classrooms, cafeterias, theaters, gyms and other heavily used areas to be equipped with such alarms. They would alert others on campus of an emergency and send a signal directly to local law enforcement authorities.

The bill passed the Assembly Education Committee on Wednesday and now moves to another Assembly committee.

"This is low-hanging fruit in providing solutions that improve school safety for students, teachers, staff and administrators" after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Conn., Olsen said in a statement.

Under the bill, the alarms would be required only if federal money was made available for that type of safety equipment. Olsen's staff estimates the cost would range from $1,000 to $5,000 per school, depending on the size of the school and the type of alarm installed, said her spokeswoman, Kim Nickols.

As of the 2010-11 academic year, there were 10,221 schools in California, according to the state Department of Education. The total cost to equip all of them with panic alarms would range from $10.2 million to $51.1 million, based on the cost estimates provided by the lawmaker's staff.

President Barack Obama included $150 million to improve school safety in his proposals to prevent gun violence. The grants could be used to purchase school safety equipment, such as panic buttons, but Congress has yet to act on his proposal.

According to a staff analysis of the bill, schools in Arizona, Connecticut, Florida, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, Ohio and Pennsylvania are considering the installation of panic buttons.

The CSAC Excess Insurance Authority, a risk-sharing pool of California public agencies, opposes the bill because it could add additional responsibilities to school districts.

(© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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