Central Illinois Officials Talk Crisis Response Mapping Data Bill

By Benjamin Cox on May 19, 2023 at 9:00am

Sangamon County Sheriff Jack Campbell speaks to the importance at the Capitol on Thursday.

A bi-partisan group of State Senators are calling on a bill to be voted on this week that would hope to increase safety in public schools.

Senate Bill 2577 would allow a public school to obtain crisis response mapping data and provide copies of the crisis response mapping data to appropriate local, county, State, and federal first responders for use in response to emergencies. The bill also would require the State Board of Education to provide grants to schools to cover the costs of obtaining the crisis response mapping data.

Sangamon County Sheriff Jack Campbell joined the senators at the Capitol on Thursday explaining the importance for first responders to know where to respond in a school building should a crisis arise: “There’s no doubt that access to standardized maps at all of our schools across the county and across Illinois would be extremely beneficial. It would help save time and potentially lives depending upon the emergency. When there is an emergency call especially when there is a threat of any kind at a school, multiple agencies are going to respond. Even if one of those responding agencies is familiar with the school, the other police and fire departments that respond may not be. If we have standardized maps that are available and in the hands of the schools, our dispatchers, and on all of our platforms; we’ll be able to react much quicker to mitigate the threat.”

Retired Beardstown School Board Vice President Barbara Hobrock repeated Campbell’s ideas by relating a situation that occurred in March 2019 at Beardstown High School in which the school was placed on lockdown after a threatening message on a bathroom stall door was found.

Hobrock says that chaos ensued when multiple agencies from the surrounding area that had never stepped foot in the high school arrived that day: “Neighboring town, county, and state police were dispatched to the school to aid in the effort. The entire campus was searched. All students and faculty and then the board was debriefed late into the evening. It is there that I learned that there was mass chaos from the onset. While there were internal obstacles that have since been addressed, having support from other law enforcement agencies was actually a struggle. Many of the first responders had never set foot on our campus and had no idea of the layout, how things, operated, and what resources they had access to. No one could find a map of the building. Entrances and exits were not labeled. Not everyone knows the difference between north and south, especially in a high stress situation like that. Our wi-fi could not handle the volume of the hundreds of texts between students, parents, faculty, and members of law enforcement. Radios between law enforcement agencies were not able to be on the same frequency. Being in a large brick building hindered phone reception. Many hands typically make light work. Without the right tools, it became a hindrance and another obstacle during a dire situation.”

Hobrock said that having crisis response mapping available for the incident in 2019 would have made things easier. Hobrock says the bill is important because it helps smaller districts have a funding mechanism to put crisis response mapping in place without incurring costs to the schools.

Hobrock says the bill will allow all districts to prepare for any type of crisis, whether its medical, a mental health crisis, or an active shooter.

The bill is being co-sponsored by both Jil Tracy and Steve McClure. The first reading of the legislation came last Tuesday and still awaits a full vote.