Bellingham schools to get panic buttons to notify police in emergencies

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDMay 28, 2014 

BELLINGHAM - By the end of next school year, every school in Bellingham School District will have panic buttons that will provide a direct line to local law enforcement in case of an emergency.

The technology is being paid for by a nearly $440,000 grant from the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction.

Bellingham is one of 80 districts throughout the state sharing in nearly $7 million in grants from the agency, intended to reduce police response time for school emergencies. The district worked with the Bellingham Police Department, the Whatcom County Sheriff's Office and the What-Comm 911 communications center on the grant.

Starting next school year, the district will be installing what are essentially panic buttons at each school, in strategic locations at each building, said Ron Cowan, assistant superintendent of finance and operations for the district. The buttons will provide a direct line to law enforcement, rather than getting routed through an alarm company that monitors the system.

"Every minute and every second counts when it comes to some emergency situations they have to respond to," Cowan said.

Bellingham's recent $160 million bond included about $2 million to improve school safety. The district was able to leverage that money when it applied for the grant, which required a financial match. Without the grant, the district would've had to spend bond money for the panic buttons, Cowan said.

Other safety projects covered by the bond include intrusion detection systems, video camera systems, lighting and locking systems.

Reach Zoe Fraley at 360-756-2803 or zoe.fraley@bellinghamherald.com.

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