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stages of mapping

The 3 Stages of Mapping Technology in School Safety: Navigating from Static to Dynamic Solutions

Kelly Moore
April 23, 2024

Recently, there has been quite a stir surrounding the topic of maps. Why is this the case, and why now? So many new technologies are available, and we are talking about maps right now for many reasons. Maps ain’t what they used to be.  So, let’s dive deeper into maps, why they are essential in school safety and their applications.

To understand where we were to where we are in the mapping world, look at how far vehicle navigation has come in just the past few years. It is even more dramatic if you go back a few decades. I am old enough to remember going into gas stations and requesting foldable maps of the area. They were large folded pieces of paper with the city or area all mapped out on both sides. You had to orient the map to find out where you were and where you wanted to be. Then, you would draw a line to determine the best way to get there. Now, you put in the address of your destination and press go. Regardless of where that destination is, your GPS knows where you are, can calculate the quickest route, and give you some options. You can get real-time information and route changes. You can be sent alerts and notices that may impact your travels: accidents, construction zones, speed checks, etc. School-based maps are no different.

Stage 1: Static Maps: That being said, most of our schools are still using what I call static maps. Maps that are meant to be printed on a piece of paper and handed out to people. Most maps we see these days are “PDF” versions of the school’s map and are often outdated and mislabeled. Very few schools haven’t been updated in the past few years or will be updated soon. Schools often change the “official” name (the name listed on the map) of a room or area and seldom change the name on the official school map. In some states, you can’t change the official name of a school room or area without their permission. This makes it very difficult to keep track of and current with all of the changes to school maps.

Stage 2: Transitioning to Digital Maps: The current map technology will likely open the eyes of many to the possibilities of advanced school safety management. Currently, we have the technology to allow for almost real-time and, in some cases, real-time interactions with the map itself. If we look at the maps as pictures of what is occurring and where things (people and safety assets) are, we can see the story of what is happening in almost real-time. Imagine seeing where all the first-aid kits, AEDs, fire extinguishers, and video cameras were located. But you are likely saying we can do that now. And you would be correct in saying that. But let’s take it a step or two further.

Stage 3: Interactive and Real-Time Mapping: Now imagine that you could see if a door was left unlocked or click on a link to view what was happening on a specific camera. What if you could locate the person who sent an alert, not only outside your building but accurately inside it within a few feet and on which floor they were? When you completed a status check with all of your staff, you could also see their status and the status and number of students they had with them on that map. Would that benefit you and your management team, the first responders, and their management team? The answer to these and many other questions, including updating the current common names of spaces within your buildings, is a resounding “Yes”. The technology is now readily available and, in more and more states, is an option and a mandatory requirement.

Does this mean your old-school static is obsolete? No, it doesn’t mean that at all. There is still the need to have maps readily available to first responders and those who only need to get from one location to another. Having a current base map that is the same as the map being used to manage your safety program or your incident is critical. Placing a PDF version of that map in your emergency notification and management app can be very helpful for those who readily need access to your map. The key here is to have everyone on the same maps and to have those maps serving the utility and purpose for the people who need them.

Today, maps can be the key to managing not only your emergencies, but all your safety assets and your safety program.

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