COLUMBUS — Applications covering more than 1,200 Ohio schools have been submitted for state grants to pay for emergency radios and entrance security features for such buildings.
An allotment of $12 million is available to help schools buy security measures such as special radios that educators can use to silently call for help with the push of a button, The Columbus Dispatch reported. Ohio officials worked with a manufacturer and law enforcement representatives to develop the specialized radio system after the school shooting massacre in Newtown, Conn., last December.
A program run by the Ohio School Facilities Commission allows districts to receive $2,000 to purchase such an alert system or $5,000 to equip a school entrance with cameras, intercoms and secured doors. The cost for schools is a $20 monthly fee for each radio.
Statewide, applications have been submitted to cover 1,226 schools. The commission will ask lawmakers for more money if the $12 million allotment is exhausted, commission spokesman Rick Savors said.
Ohio’s largest district, Columbus City Schools, has secure entrances for its buildings but is “strongly considering” applying for grant money to get the radios, spokesman Jeff Warner told the newspaper.
The school radios manufactured by Motorola were developed by the Multi-Agency Radio Communications System (MARCS), a high-tech statewide system that allows first-responders to easily talk to any agency with MARCS radios.
Darryl Anderson, MARCS program director, said the radio enables instantaneous calls for help.
The radio has a microphone that permits voice communication, but the button feature allows a school employee to send an electronic alert and then hide or help others without speaking and giving away their presence to an intruder, Anderson said.
“If you hit that button, we’re going to send all available resources,” Anderson said.
The radio also avoids problems with downed phone lines or busy cellphone towers, said Anderson, a part-time police officer and former state trooper.
Circleville is building three schools with secure entrances, but Superintendent Kirk McMahon has applied for funds for the radios.
“If an intruder comes in and an employee looks at the door and sees an armed person, all she has to do is punch a button,” he said. “You can punch a button and hide.”
The gunman at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., killed 20 students and six educators at the school, before killing himself.