CDs play well in Florida crises

Law enforcement officials in a Florida county have one more tool to combat

school violence, crimes and other emergencies — a compact disc.

The Broward Sheriff's Office recently equipped its 1,300 road patrol

deputies, supervisors, dispatchers, SWAT teams and school resource officers

with a CD containing detailed floor plans, aerial photos and interior pictures

of 61 public and private elementary, middle and high schools in the agency's

jurisdiction. Broward County Fire-Rescue squads also have copies.

According to spokeswoman Cheryl Stopnick, the CD was developed so that

deputies unfamiliar with a particular school would know where to go, how

to gain access and whom to contact in case of an emergency. Deputies have

laptop computers in their patrol cars.

"It's marrying innovation with technology with traditional law enforcement,"

Stopnick said. "This innovation gives people a peace of mind that we're

prepared to handle any emergency that pops up."

Broward County, which includes the city of Fort Lauderdale, has a population

of 1.5 million people.

In a worst-case scenario, such as a hostage crisis, Stopnick said, the

CD could cut planning and response time by hours. Responding officers often

arrive on a scene and ask where they should be positioned. With the CD,

supervisors and dispatchers can pre-designate perimeter points and staging

areas. "Everyone is on the same page with the same information," she said.

But Stopnick said the CD wasn't developed just for worst-case scenarios

but for situations such as school burglaries or reports of missing students.

The disc also contains phone numbers and names of school principals, superintendents,

supervisors, the county's other fire and police departments, and hospitals.

In Broward County schools last year, there were no incidents of such

violent crimes as homicides, shootings, stabbings or riots, according to

Stopnick. Most calls were for disturbances on campus, followed by trespassing,

fighting, theft and vandalism.

The disc was created in-house for about $2,500 plus staff hours, Stopnick

said. It will be updated at least once a year to add the names and phone

numbers of new school officials. She said that some of the other 25 or so

municipal police departments in the county, which has 216 public schools,

have expressed interest in the CD.

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