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Virginia offers grant to help schools create digital floor plans

RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) — Whether it’s an elementary school fire or threats of violence at area high schools, first responders need the best information to deal with these emergencies; information that is sometimes only found on the floor plan of a school building. The difficulty arises when floor plans are outdated or still on paper.

In response to this, Governor Glenn Youngkin signed House Bill 741, which will go into effect this summer. The law requires each school district in the state to create a detailed and accurate floor plan for each public school building in the local school division or certify that the existing floor plan for each such school is sufficiently clear and accurate.

The new law does not require that floor plans be made digital, only that they be up to date. The state is offering a $6.5 million program called the Digital Mapping Program to help school districts make the switch.

Donna Michaelis is the director of the Center for School and Campus Safety, which runs the grant program that will reimburse schools up to $3,500 to make floor plans digital and transferable to first responders.

“It shows them exactly when the incident is happening or where it’s happening or where the unification would be so they can better respond to a large school building and know which door to enter into all these types of issues,” Michaelis said.

The digital maps are called Collaborative Response Graphics (CRG), which provide site-specific common operational images, enhanced emergency communications, high-resolution imagery, emergency response pre-planning and a combined grid overlay in one card. Floor plans are also accessible by mobile phone and laptop.

According to a survey conducted by the Center for School and Safety, approximately 70% of schools indicated that first responders had electronic/internet access to current school diagrams in their respective division if they needed to respond to a safety incident. on a large scale at school. About 88% of Virginia school divisions reported that law enforcement had access to the building in the event of a lockdown.

“I can tell you that the program is only open for about a week and a half, two weeks. We’ve already had a quarter of school divisions call us to take advantage of this,” Michaelis said.

Michaelis says the state has partnered with New Jersey-based mapping firm Critical Response Group, which specializes in designing CRGs.

“So what we’ve done is we’ve really filled that void by taking what’s in place today and converting it into file formats accessible by public safety professionals and whatever the technology they use when they report to an incident,” Critique said Response Group CEO Mike Ridgers.

Rodgers says the digital aspect also allows maps to be updated and shared more easily. Any law enforcement agency can have all the information they need about a building they are responding to, even if it is only their first visit.

“We basically took a mapping technique that was developed for US military special operations and converted it for national preparedness response,” Rodgers said. “Virginia is the first state in the country to really implement this at a top-down national level, which is really exciting.”

School divisions can apply for the digital mapping program HERE.

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