Mapping program to help first responders during school emergencies loses funding

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SEATTLE --  A program that helps police and fire deal with shootings and other emergencies is about to end because of lack of funding.

Every public school in state of Washington has been mapped and logged and all the details, which include blueprints, layouts and pictures of the school, are saved in a database that helps first responders in the event of an emergency.

On July 1, funding for the program runs out.

When a real emergency hits at any public school in the state, law enforcement officials can quickly access details about the school, using a simple system.

“Probably the primary importance of this is that it really gives school districts and local law enforcement and fire responders a chance to work together ahead of time in the mapping program. They get to know each other, do drills and table top exercises and really talk about those ‘what ifs’ and be prepared to respond to any real emergency,” said Mitch Barker, executive director for the Washington Association of Sheriff’s and Police Chiefs (WASPC)

The Critical Incident Planning and Mapping system is run by the WASPC.

The program provides details about the schools, like maps, blueprints and pictures. This helps first responders know the layout of a school during any type of shooting or major emergency.

"It’s got significant value. We really believe that and we think. more strategically. it helps with school safety, really. in a big picture long-run,” added Barker.

Every year it costs the state about a half a million dollars to maintain the program.

This year, the money to pay for it was spread thin.

“We think it’s an important program, if we thought it was critical and that overnight it would increase risk to students, we wouldn’t cut it. We wouldn’t even consider it,” said Barker.

The mapping system has been used at several schools in the state and helped during potential threats at schools in Vancouver and Spokane.

“It’s a wonderful program and its lead to some very positive things that have happened so it’s too bad if this is going to end,” said Nathan Olson, a spokesperson for the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction.

Several state lawmakers say the Legislature didn’t cut the program on purpose but many claim they were not aware that the critical mapping system would be coming to an end on July 1.

A spokesperson for Gov. Jay Inslee said they will assist as legislators work to come up with other options to try and keep the program running in the future.

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