NEW JERSEY (WABC) -- New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy on Tuesday announced $6.5 million in funding for a statewide school security initiative to collect and digitize school building blueprints for first responders.
The American Rescue Plan funds will help the state's Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness and the state police devise maps for about 1,500 schools public and private schools.
An additional 1,500 schools already have such digital graphics available, according to the administration.
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The money will be used to map the schools in order to create Collaborative Response Graphics for first responders to use in the event of an emergency.
"With the epidemic of gun violence reaching every part of our communities, including our schools, we offer our families not empty promises, but concrete investments in tools and resources that will keep our students safe," Murphy said. "Nothing is more important than the safety of our children and the educators who help our children achieve their full potential. In order to protect our children and educators, we must equip our first responders with the most up-to-date 21st-century technology so that they can respond to emergencies without unnecessary delay."
The maps are critical to help police and other responders react to emergencies in what could be unfamiliar environments, officials say.
"We can't just hope that a police officer or a firefighter or medical professional rushing into a school knows where they're going," Murphy said. "The reality is that a multi-sheet set of blueprints used to guide construction in many cases are so large that they need to be rolled and unrolled...(they) aren't the best tool to guide first responders in a life or death situation."
Murphy visited East Brook Middle School to announce the initiative, ahead of the first day of public schools on Thursday, September 8.
The announcement comes nearly a month after Murphy signed legislation requiring the state's nearly 600 school districts to set up threat assessment teams aimed at stemming any violence in schools.
The bill was introduced two days after the Uvalde, Texas, school shooting.
That measure goes into effect in the 2023-2024 school year.
The legislation calls for a "multidisciplinary" team that will include a school psychologist, counselor, social worker, or other school worker with similar expertise; a teacher; a principal or other senior administrator; a schools law enforcement officer or a worker who serves as a liaison with police; and the designated school safety specialist. The guidelines the teams are supposed to follow are to be set up by the state Department of Education in consultation with state law enforcement and Homeland Security officials.
The first day for New Jersey public schools will be Thursday, September 8.
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