New Jersey digitizing school blueprints in case of emergencies

New Jersey is using $6.5 million of federal funding to gather and digitize school blueprints for first responders, Gov. Phil Murphy said Tuesday.

The American Rescue Plan funds will help the state's Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness and the New Jersey State Police devise maps for about 1,500 schools public and private schools. An additional 1,500 schools already have such digital graphics available, Murphy's administration said.

The maps are critical to help police and other responders react to emergencies in what could be unfamiliar environments.

"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 in a statement. "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."

Last month, Murphy signed legislation into law 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 New Jersey State Police has more than 100 schools in State Police patrolled areas where we have a consistent uniformed presence to ensure the safety of students and staff," Col. Patrick Callahan, the superintendent of the state police, said in a statement. "Ensuring that our children and school personnel are safe will always be an important part of our ongoing mission, and this new initiative will undoubtedly assist law enforcement during emergent times by affording first responders the resources to work quickly and more efficiently." 

With The Associated Press.