CLEVELAND - Before he announced the enhanced plan to protect school children in the event of an emergency, Cleveland Metropolitan School District's safety chief said "we mourn and suffer with our friends and families in Newtown...our deepest sympathies go out to them."
But the timing of Thursday's CMSD announcement is not related to the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy. Securing Our Students (SOS) program has been in the works for two years.
"It's important to find ways to protect our children," Lester Fultz said.
Law enforcement in the area will get disks with current digital blueprints of every school and room in the district. It's popped into a cruiser laptop and first responders can see where every window, door, emergency exit is located. EMS can, without delay, respond to the nearest entry point.
"This will help improve information sharing and emergency response, including the locations of safety equipment, safe rooms in buildings, making our rescue of students and staff safer for everyone," Fultz explained, adding Cleveland schools have been made safer.
"Measured incidents are down 40 percent over last past five years...the use of technology and this tool (SOS) will certainly improve the safety of students and save lives."
Not only will first responders have the digital blueprints, but the dispatch center will have the layouts too. That way they can advise officers responding to a school emergency which door is best, where a threat may be, if kids needs rescued, if there is a wall or roof collapse, diabetic and more.
SOS is partially funded through a U.S. Homeland Security grant. The total cost of the program was not revealed.
"Every second counts to save a child or anyone's life," said Roy Meadows, who created Foremost Safety Solutions which is how the SOS program works. "We know every nook and cranny in these schools and all drawings are up to date."
That includes knowing the total number of doors that need protected, all which are numbered in zones using different shapes and colors. The shapes will help any first responder who is colorblind.
Authorities will be able to pull up the school building floor plan and get 360-degree views of any room as it currently looks.
"We have medical emergencies in our buildings all the time, saving seconds saves lives," Fultz said.
The resources available before implementation of SOS including blueprints, but they were outdated and not as thorough and complete, missing additions, etc., as the newest enhancements.