Indianapolis police invest in web-based program to better secure schools

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Indianapolis public safety officials have worked with a Washington, DC-area company to rework an online program that is expected to better secure schools in Marion and Hamilton Counties.

Pertinent information like school building blueprints, personnel information and emergency plans among other documentation is uploaded into the program, called Digital Sandbox. Digital Sandbox will provide real-time information in a crisis situation such as an active shooter or severe weather.

“They are telling you where the shooter is, and where they are, and now we will be able to see,” said Gary Coons, Indianapolis Department of Homeland Security Chief.

Coons said, currently, police officers, firefighters and EMS workers who are responding to these crisis scenarios, are only armed with a collection of paperwork that is in the hands of top officials, and it is often not updated.

“There is a quite a delay in terms of getting that information on-scene,” said Major Ted Fries, with the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department’s Homeland Security Division.

Once a school goes online, it is also under surveillance for suspicious activity and potential threats. The program can also grade the schools in terms of their vulnerability to a threat.

Perry Township Schools was the first district to be in the system. A handful of other schools in Marion County are also online. Public, private and charter schools will all be included.

“They are able to instantaneously know where the children are using maps of the schools, and we think that is vital,” said Dr. Tom Little, Superintendent of Perry Townships Schools.

Dr. Little also said they have since reworked emergency plans and properly secured some school buildings.

“If we have an incident happen in Indianapolis, I think this could make a big difference in the coordination of the response. It can save a lot of time and hopefully a lot of lives,” said Fries.

The schools in Marion County are expected to be online in three to four months. Hamilton County is doing the same.

A federal grant worth $500,000 paid for the program that was used during the Super Bowl. A maintenance fee under $80,000 will be required yearly starting next year. Coons said they will use available grants to pay the fee.

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