New Virginia law aims to improve school emergency response

Every second counts for first responders when it comes to saving lives and now a new Virginia law aims to help those heroes navigate better as they respond to emergencies at schools. 

Public schools will be required to digitally keep an up-to-date and accurate floor plan for each building.   

Delegate Rob Bell (R-Albemarle), the lawmaker behind House Bill 741 which passed unanimously, said he was approached by members of law enforcement concerned that in the event of an emergency it’s too late to scramble around to find a floor plan by the time they get there.  

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In the past, school floor plans were either on paper or a one-dimensional digital map, but officials say those are outdated. 

"Schools get renovated, schools have additions, some of them have trailers where the kids are, and it's real important people who arrive on a scene in an emergency know where to go and what to do." Bell said. "We don’t know where the emergency will be." 

The new plan will create a digital version that can now be shared with first responders on a cell phone or laptop.  

Del. Bell says some schools do have them, but the issue is there is no requirement. 

Derrick Parks, president of Metropolitan Protective Services, told FOX 5 that having a digital map of the school gives them a chance to develop a strategy before arriving and makes their response faster and more effective.  

"You can identify if there’s a threat," Parks said. "If someone says you’re in room 205 or 306 and responding officers can actually see where that is through their digital devices, and they can pull that information up prior to arrival on scene." 

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Parks said when dealing with paper floor plans, law enforcement may not know where it is or have access to it so having an accurate layout of the buildings beforehand is a game-changer.

"I mean if you know specifically where the threat is whether it’s a fire, whether it’s an active shooter whether it’s some kind of confrontation and people can pinpoint that officers can now deploy and set up the right kind of perimeter as needed if a perimeter needs to be set up or go and neutralize whatever threats may occur." 

Governor Glenn Youngkin announced that $6.5 million dollars available through the Department of Criminal Justice Services to help schools develop digital floor plans.  

The program will fund up to $3,500 for schools that apply.