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Securing our Students: CMSD implements new, high-tech school security strategy

CLEVELAND -- A new safety and security strategy will be used in 100 Cleveland public schools buildings.

The layout of each of the buildings has been mapped in minute detail and will be available as a computer program to every first responder in the city.

"While there is no single plan or solution to eliminate every threat, the use of technology and this tool, will certainly improve the safety of our students and it may just save lives," said Chief Lester Fultz of the Cleveland Metropolitan School District's security team.

The announcement of the computer-mapped images of every building, inside and out, was made at a Thursday afternoon news conference. The work was done by Foremost Safety Solutions, Inc., of Macedonia.

"We have gone into every school," announced company founder and CEO Roy Meadows, who began the project with a Homeland Security grant two years ago. "We made sure we know every nook and cranny of that school and we made sure these drawings are up to date."

Meadows obtained blueprints of all the schools, and used them along with site visits and detailed analysis of each property to produce maps to be used by police, fire, and other emergency response personnel.

The program will be loaded into every computer in every emergency response and safety forces vehicle as soon as possible.

Dispatchers will have the same program so they are looking at the same blueprints, layouts, and diagrams as responders on the scene of an emergency.

"It's just a simple thing that he clicks on the school he wants and from there he can take it through the progression, from the aerial view all the way down to a closet in section red," said Chief Mark Wentz of the Northfield Police Department.

Wentz and Meadows used the first version of the program together more than 10 years ago in the Nordonia School District. It has since been updated by Foremost Safety Solutions to reflect the configuration of buildings there today.

The strategy has been named SOS, Securing Our Students, by the Cleveland Metropolitan School District, and is aimed at not only responding to incidents such as the school shootings in Newtown, Connecticut, but daily emergencies like injured or ill students or staff.

"I can think of dozens of times over the years we could have benefitted by having this," Fultz said, "even if it's getting our responders to the best entrance to building to save the precious seconds and can save lives."