Digital mapping technology aims to improve safety, emergency response in Harrisonburg schools

HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) – Harrisonburg Police Chief Kelley Warner stopped by the Harrisonburg school board meeting on Tuesday evening to talk about safety in schools around the Friendly City.

Superintendent Dr. Michael Richards explained safety measures already in place, like locking doors, procedures for guests entering the building, and threat assessments.

“We’re working very close with law enforcement every step of the way,” Richards said.

Harrisonburg City Public Schools received an award from the Governor’s Office to digitize floor plans of schools. The Digital Mapping Program for Virginia K–12 Schools will fund up to $3,500 per public school to create a common operation picture through digital maps for school administrators and first responders to use during emergencies.

This technology will include site-specific pictures, floor plans available on cell phones and laptops, and allow enhanced communications during emergencies. Richards said this information will not be public and for emergency use only in collaboration with first responders.

“It would be something that we could share with law enforcement so that if there’s a crisis [or incident] in a school, there’s no question of where is it, where are the windows, where are the doors,” Richards said.

“HPD is committed to the safety of all residents, but certainly our most precious, our children,” Chief Warner said. “I’m committed to providing training to our people and to stay on top of that cutting edge.”

Several companies were approved to assist Virginia schools with conducting these projects. HCPS is currently determining which company to use, but said some digital plans could be ready as soon as this school year.

In April, Governor Glenn Youngkin announced the availability of $6.5 million through the Department of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) to assist public schools in the development of digital floor plans.

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