School Safety: Top 5 Funding Sources for First Responder Alert System

School administrators tasked with keeping children as safe as possible need ready access to funding sources for safety systems like alerting and panic button technology. This article helps sort through the funding maze and offers guidance to help communities improve school safety.

By: Sonya Richmond, Grant Information Manager, Mutualink

Although there was a brief respite from school violence due to the coronavirus pandemic as children learned remotely, that pause has been broken. The 2021-2022 school year has already seen more than a half-dozen school shootings as of late September, according to Education Week

There are multiple causes for these incidents, but they are primarily rooted in mental health issues. For example, the coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated negative feelings among children. A survey among 3,000 teenagers found that:

  • 30% feel unhappy or depressed as a result of Covid-19, and nearly as many worry about having basic needs met for food, medicine, and safety
  • 29% say they don’t feel connected to school adults, and nearly as many say the same about their classmates and community

These figures are alarming and should cause school safety officials to seek ways to protect children and mitigate any delays in communicating with first responders when incidents occur. What’s needed is a first responder alert system. 

How a First Responder Alert System Improves School Safety

Most active shooting incidents are over within 10 to 15 minutes, according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security

That’s why immediate collaboration and communication are critical for school safety. Technology systems can connect community responders with school officials to quickly address mental health concerns and prevent and mitigate school violence. 

For example, panic button technology can speed first responder deployment. The right system includes:

  • An easy-to-use alerting device or tool that has a software-based panic button for schools to deliver rapid communication among 911 and other first responders for real-time coordination 
  • Integration with existing radio and video communication technology to speed response time and ultimately improve school safety.

Read more about panic button technology here.

In addition, the right panic button solution will be certified by the Department of Homeland Security to ensure integrity and interoperability. The last thing school officials should worry about during a crisis is whether their communications systems will work. 

School administrators tasked with keeping children as safe as possible need ready access to alerting and panic-button technology. Multiple sources provide funding for these systems. Yet, working through grant opportunities can be like making your way through a convoluted maze.

Ultimate Guide to Funding School Safety Solutions

Learn more about grants, funding sources and how Mutualink can help.


The 5 Top Funding Sources to Secure First Responder Alert System

It can be time-consuming, complex, and frustrating to navigate the grants system to determine which funding sources are applicable for panic button technology. I have been a grants writer and manager for over two decades, and I have collated sources to help school safety officials streamline the process. 

1. Unused Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Funds (ESSER)

Funding for ESSER breaks down into three categories: those allocated under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES); the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations (CRRSA) Act, and the American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act. 

The ESSER funds are awarded to each state based on the Federal Title I formula to solve COVID-19 related issues. This funding has made it possible for elementary and secondary schools to better equip their institutions for safety — including faster response to incidents, especially around mental health. 

We recommend this resource first because we’re seeing that schools can use these funds for many things, including panic buttons for schools technology. 

Tip: Understand your state’s spending priorities by visiting the National Conference of State Legislators website, which provides a state-by-state relief funding synopsis. For more information, visit the U.S. Office of Elementary and Secondary Education website

2. Title Funds

Title funds are federally allocated and distributed on a needs-based formula to level set for communities with a disproportionate number of underserved students. This funding helps solve various student issues – including social/emotional needs. For example, school districts can use Title IVa funds to improve school security and safety, and on tools to help monitor mental health crises. 

Tip: Understand the process and qualifications for funding requests. For example, there’s a provision for “school climate management,” which can fund secure internal communications among staff and administration. Also, you can request funding to meet “mental and behavioral response-ability” for response in a crisis. Finally, you can augment your school’s Emergency Operations Plan by integrating and leveraging existing security technology such as cameras with panic buttons.

3. State-funded grants and allocations

These funds are managed by designated state agencies and vary annually. Check your state’s Office of Emergency Management or Department of Education, and sign up for their email alerts. 

Tip: Where there is annual funding, note the previous year’s timeline anticipate the due date, and draft applications at least three months in advance. Also, reach out to your local program officer via email with a high-level draft request to your equipment request is allowable.

4. Federal competitive grants

The U.S. Department of Justice and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) run annual competitive grant programs to help high-need, underserved schools unable to meet their communities’ needs with state and local resources. 

A great example is the U.S. Department of Justice, COPS School Violence Prevention Program Grant. It’s an annual opportunity that funds eligible measures such as “technology for expedited notification of local law enforcement during an emergency.”

Tip: Schools that have experienced a security event need to restore confidence that the school has the technology to respond to any incident by accessing help more expeditiously. Grant applications should refer to this need for technology that enables real-time communications and response.

5. School budgets

We all know that school budgets are often restricted. However, we’ve seen successes in securing funding for alerting and panic button technology this year as schools have received unplanned grants from federal and state sources, freeing up line items for other uses.  

For example, many security officer roles include responsibility for developing and implementing the coordination and execution of security drills and training and management of security infrastructure and systems. That includes budgeting for communications systems, cameras, and monitoring services. It’s worth exploring your school budget for these measures. 

Tip: Remember that schools typically work on their budgets during the summer months, and they forecast five or six years out.

A Trusted School Safety Solution

Mutualink connects schools with community leaders and first responders to accelerate logistics planning and response to mental health and behavioral crises. 

Our solution streamlines communications. With just a push of a button, a Mutualink incident is created that allows first responders to start sharing radio, video, telephone, and cellular communications. The technology is Safety Act certified and is included on the approved products list for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

In addition, we are happy to provide guidance and support during your funding application process. For more information, check out our School Safety page.

Published On: October 11th, 2021 / By / Categories: Blog /