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N.J. county creates digital maps of every school for first responders

The program allows Hunterdon County first responders to access detailed floor plans through an app on their phone

Brayden Fahey public safety director and Office of Emergency Management coordinator for Hunterdon County.

Brayden Fahey is the public safety director and Office of Emergency Management coordinator for Hunterdon County.

Amanda Brown

By Caroline Fassett

HUNTERDON COUNTY, N.J. — A cloud-based digital system implemented to increase the safety of others has grown to help more and more residents across Hunterdon County.

And it’s still growing.

The county’s structure mapping program is now in place in nearly every school in Hunterdon County for all first responder units across the region. Frank Crisologo, chief of detectives for the county Prosecutor’s Office, said the program will be instituted at every school district by the end of the summer.

This program, known as GXP (geospatial exploitation products) mapping, provides a grid overlay of a structure or floor plan easily accessible to law enforcement and other first responder units.

Both Crisologo and Brayden Fahey, the director of the county’s Department of Public Safety, explained that the digital program replaces the paper maps and plans previously relied upon to navigate emergency incidents.

“Drawings and floor plans we had gone off of in the past were outdated and also not really accessible to first responders,” Crisologo said. “Now, every officer has access to the floor plans through the collaborated response graphics on their phone, on an app.”

“Everything was in binders and books ... Some schools, we didn’t even have those floor plans available,” Fahey said. “So we looked at the GXP system and we identified an opportunity to get all the schools on the same page and use one single platform to store everything electronically and be able to share it with first responders in the moment of an emergency happening.”

The initiative represents a joint effort between the county Prosecutor’s Office, Sheriff’s Office and Department of Public Safety, but began as a county-funded pilot program spearheaded by the Prosecutor’s Office in 2018 for law enforcement. With funding provided by federal Homeland Security grants, it has subsequently expanded to fire and emergency medical service units to serve a rising number of schools and other sites.

“We started off with the schools, and it expanded into other businesses like the hospitals and different places of infrastructure within the county so that we could have a common operating picture — not only law enforcement-wise but also with our emergency responders, whether that be fire or first aid,” Crisologo said.

Crisologo explained the program standardizes floor and structure plans, meaning it enables the mapping of different schools and facilities to look similar to one another.

“If you look at the program itself and the maps themselves, they all operate from one specific way,” he said. “They’re all oriented North — it’s almost like a game of Battleship ... if you said ‘G5,’ it would correspond to a specific area on that map.”

It also allows first responders to better track one another’s location during emergency situations.

“Everybody would be identified in certain colors. So law enforcement may be blue, the fire department may be red, the rescue squad may be a yellow color ... and it will identify where those individuals are within the building,” Crisologo said.

“The first responders can enable location services on a mobile device, and we can watch them as they work their way through the building,” Fahey added. “So it places a dot on the map for each first responder, and as we’ve expanded it to fire and EMS it will place a dot on the map for firetrucks and ambulances and such.

“So we can really get situational awareness as to where each of the first responders or emergency service vehicles are working at a given time,” he added.

According to Fahey and Crisologo, the program has been useful in locating missing persons previously reported at the 4-H and Agricultural Fair in Ringoes and the balloon festival held at Solberg Airport in Readington Township. It has also helped first responders successfully respond to a recent maritime rescue at the Round Valley Reservoir.

Beyond schools, the program is used in various hospitals and at other essential sites.

Both Fahey and Crisologo encouraged other businesses to reach out if they are interested in adding their industry to the digital map.

“It’s a significant investment every year to sustain the system, so the more organizations and businesses and different facilities that we can get to buy in and are willing to participate, the better,” Fahey echoed.

“Critical infrastructure within the county: hospitals, bigger corporations, bigger administrative buildings of the county government — all of those would benefit from being mapped out. And we have quite a few mapped out already,” Crisologo said.

“It is essential, and safety for me in the county is paramount — the safety of our citizens, of the infrastructure in Hunterdon County, of everybody in the county. That’s of critical importance to this office,” he added.

Those interested in becoming involved in the county’s GXP mapping program can contact the Hunterdon County Prosecutor’s Office or the county’s Department of Public Safety for more information.

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