New Va. law, digital map funding aims to improve school emergency response

Keeping children safe at school is at the top of most parents’ priority lists — Virginia is taking steps to help first responders quickly defuse a major emergency at a school.

A newly signed Virginia law, House Bill 741, introduced by Del. Robert Bell, a Republican, requires school boards to create a detailed and accurate floor plan for each public school building. The floor plan would be part of the annual public elementary and secondary school safety audit, which is an internal document developed by a school system with local law enforcement.

In the past, the floor plan maps have been printed on paper, or shared through one-directional digital maps.

Gov. Glenn Youngkin has announced more than $6.5 million in funding is available for school systems to create digital maps that can be easily shared between school administrators and first responders on a cellphone or laptop.

The Digital Mapping Program for Virginia K-12 Schools, through the state’s Department of Criminal Justice Services, will reimburse schools up to $3,500 to create a digital map in conjunction with local law enforcement.

The goal is that first responders can be on the same digital platform as school administrators, with access to the school-specific security plan, even while in transit.

Collaborative Response Graphics technology provides accurate floor plans, high-resolution imagery, emergency response preplanning and a gridded-overlay combined into one map.

“In an emergency, every second matters,” said Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Robert Mosier in a release from Youngkin’s office. “It is imperative that our first responders have the ability to quickly assess the situation and coordinate response efforts.”

“This legislation and the Digital Mapping Program for Virginia K-12 Schools will help ensure the safety of all students, staff, and visitors who enter our schools,” Youngkin said. “It will likewise promote the safety of the brave men and women who keep our children safe.”
To receive funding through the Digital Mapping Program for Virginia K-12 Schools, the school system will collaborate with local first responders, select one of several vendors for the digital mapping project and submit an application to DCJS. After the maps have been created and shared with first responders, school divisions may be reimbursed, according to the release.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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