This is what collaboration looks like.

It started with a Frisco, Texas, Independent School District official at a national education conference admiring some software that gave first responders inside information, like floor plans, on a school district in case they have to respond to an incident at one of the schools. Independent School District officials sat down with city officials, including representatives from the Frisco police and fire departments and the city’s IT staff to gauge buying the off-the-shelf software. But during discussions, they realized they could do it better themselves with existing resources.

What resulted is the Situational Awareness for Emergency Response (SAFER) system, which provides police, fire and emergency medical responders with real-time video, still photos and data on all 45 schools in the district. So when first responders are called to a situation at one of the schools, they can view floor plans, live video (in some cases) and photos of the building, providing situational awareness not experienced before SAFER, which was conceived in 2008 and became fully operational in 2009.

“Previously we didn’t have the plans from the school so officers were going there blind,” said Lt. Jason Jenkins of the Frisco Police Department. “Unless they’d been there before, they were going with no expectation of the layout of the school other than what they could see from the outside.”

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Jim McKay  |  Editor

Jim McKay is the editor of Emergency Management. He lives in Orangevale, Calif., with his wife, Christie, daughter, Ellie, and son, Ronan. He relaxes by fly fishing on the Truckee River for big, wild trout. Jim can be reached at