Local schools use drones to enhance safety plans

Posted: 4:35 PM, Aug 06, 2018
Updated: 2018-08-06 22:58:55Z

Residents may see a drone flying high above schools ahead of the first day of school. They're part of a new effort to keep schools safer — a proactive plan meant to give any Ohio district a new vantage point. 

The Bureau of Criminal Investigation has six drones. They use them to document crime scenes and assist in missing persons cases, but now they're offering the drones to take free aerial photographs of school buildings for school safety plans.

Lorain and Avon districts have already taken the Bureau of Criminal Investigations up on the optional offer, which is meant to help police and first responders in the case of an emergency or active shooter situation.

"It was literally a drone that was flying around over our 14 schools at different times, getting different angles. It was really kinda cool," said David Hardy Jr, CEO of the Lorain City School District.

Hardy explained in this unfortunate day and age, with recent tragic school shootings across the country, plans like these have to be made. "Safety doesn't happen in a reactive way, or needs to happen in a proactive way," he said. 

Ohio law requires every school in Ohio to have a school safety plan on file to help law enforcement when they respond to an emergency. The drone photographs are now an elective part of that plan. 

"They're an option for all of us, but we said, 'You know what? Let's get out in front of it. Let's be first,'" Hardy said. 

"When law enforcement responds to a school emergency, they must have as much information about the school as possible," Attorney General Mike DeWine said. "Right now, school safety plans must include floor plans, but I believe that aerial photos will be an effective tool to help law enforcement plan for and respond to a violent incident."

According to BCI, the photos are free for schools and they're accessible through law-enforcement databases. 

"It enhanced our security and safety's almost night and day difference. We're able to see how to get in and out of buildings a lot easier and how to move around certain buildings as well," Hardy explained. 

Ohio BCI provided News 5 with this information for those interested: "Local law enforcement, in coordination with school administrators, can request that BCI agents take aerial photographs of schools in their area by calling 855-BCI-OHIO (224-6446). BCI will upload the photos to the Ohio Law Enforcement Gateway (OHLEG) to be included with school safety plans."