Washington State Emergency Preparedness Program Unveiled

New Internet-based technology to provide facility information of all high schools, help first responders prepare for emergencies.

RENTON, Wash. -- The Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs (WASPC), in conjunction with local school board officials and state legislators, recently announced a statewide public facilities mapping initiative designed to give police, fire and other first responders better information to use when responding to emergencies.

The first part of this multi-phase initiative includes the mapping of every state high-school facility using Rapid Responder, a new Internet-based mapping technology. It will provide first responders with access to critical school information -- including complete floor plans, site maps, utility control locations, tactical and evacuation plans and school contact information -- needed to address emergencies quickly, decisively and safely.

This project has been launched in accordance with recently passed Washington State House Bill 1218 sponsored by State Rep. John Lovick, which states:
"The legislature recognizes the extreme dangers present when the safety of our citizens requires first responders such as police and firefighters to evacuate and secure a building. In an effort to prepare for responding to unintended disasters, criminal acts and acts of terrorism, the legislature intends to create a statewide first-responder building mapping information system that will provide all first responders with the information they need to be successful when disaster strikes."

The first school in King County to become part of the Rapid Responder system is Oliver M. Hazen High School in Renton School District. Other school districts to be completed this year include Olympia, Tri-Cities, Yakima and Vancouver among others. The project is estimated to be complete by January 2005.

"We're proud to be the first school district in the county to be included in this system," said Dolores Gibbons, Renton Schools superintendent. "The safety of our students is our highest priority, and this system is another step we've taken to plan for emergencies and potential disasters."

Rapid Responder is designed to ensure coordinated emergency response and communication. Its use helps evacuate victims faster, provides responders with safer access and escape routes, decreases property damage, and improves communication on victim status and media reporting, all of which helps first responders save lives.

"In recent years, we've all seen evidence of the need for better response to emergencies, especially when children are involved," said Larry Erickson, executive director of WASPC. "Once this implementation is complete, we want this rollout to serve as a model for other similar scenarios elsewhere in the state: office buildings, government facilities, airports, medical facilities, anywhere first responders need to coordinate high volumes of data in an emergency."

Rapid Responder from Prepared Response is an interactive emergency response database system. It gives first responders directions to sites, staging areas and buildings, in addition to floor plans, site plans and both indoor and outdoor photos of each facility. It allows first responders to adequately prepare through pre-planning, actual response and recovery, providing the means to effect the highest level of organization and dissemination of all incident plans, site information and communication. For example, a site commander and emergency communications managers can view critical site information en route to an emergency, access building safety plans specific to the crisis, create and manage an incident plan, and communicate in real time with other crews through a secure Internet connection.

The first phase of the statewide building mapping system was funded by the 2003 legislature. The funding for this project was a priority for Senate Capital Budget Chairman Joseph Zarelli. WASPC is currently working with the Washington State Congressional delegation to secure funding for later phases of this project.


WASPC was founded in 1963 and consists of executive and top management personnel from law enforcement agencies statewide. The association combines representatives from local, state, and federal law enforcement into a single body, working toward a common goal. WASPC's function is to provide specific materials and services to all law enforcement agencies in the state, members and non-members alike. The 1975 legislature made WASPC a legal entity, designating the association a "combination of units of local government." WASPC regularly partners with other organizations and agencies to assist with and enhance efforts regarding public safety.
Miriam Jones is chief copy editor of Government Technology, Governing, Public CIO and Emergency Management magazines. She joined e.Republic in 2000 as an editor of Converge magazine.