Virtual Alabama coming to Crenshaw County schools

Published 7:46 pm Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Luverne High School, along with 132 other schools across the state, will soon be participating in the “Virtual Alabama School Safety Program”, a program that uses 3D technology that will allow emergency personnel to have aerial and inside views of the campuses and school buildings.

Douglas Lamar Davis, Senior Consultant, Center for Government at Auburn Montgomery, said that the Alabama Criminal Justice Information Center, the State of Alabama Homeland Security, the Alabama State Department of Education, and AUM are working in conjunction with the implementation of the new program.

“After Hurricane Katrina, Gov. Bob Riley wanted to know the damages on the Gulf Coast,” Davis explained. “The revenue commissioners from each county in the state use digital imagery to photograph and map their county—some are more detailed than others, though.”

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From this, the program was born, Davis said, as the Dept. of Homeland Security took the aerial maps and 3D images and put them together to allow emergency personnel to be able to zoom in, using Google Earth, and see a particular county or area, even down to a specific street or community.

“You get an aerial view of the school, and from there you’ll be able to see evacuation routes for fires or bomb threats, as well as the staging areas where the students would be located in case of those events,” he said. “We can see where the students are located during a tornado, or where bus routes are located—we can even see where all of the fire extinguishers are inside the buildings, the water lines, camera locations—anything.”

Davis said that if this technology had been available during the Columbine High School shootings, then maybe the incident could have been less deadly because emergency personnel would have been able to see into the classrooms and hallways using the digital imagery program.

“Once all of this information has been gathered, the schools can then share it with the Sheriff’s Office, the police departments, all the fire departments, Emergency Management Agency, and E-911,” he said.

Alabama will be the first state in the nation to have its schools mapped using this 3D technology. Luverne High School is scheduled for its mapping during the second week in October; from there, school officials from Brantley and Highland Home will be trained on how to map their schools.

The program comes from a $1 million grant through the Dept. of Homeland Security and through the State Dept. of Education.

Crenshaw County EMA Director Jessica Tomlin-Seabrook already uses the program for mapping the outdoor weather warning siren locations within the county, as well as the new storm shelter locations.

“If there is a hazardous chemical spill inside the school building, we’ll be able to see exactly where it is located using this technology,” she said. “This is going to be a great asset to our school officials, not to mention to our emergency personnel.”

Lamar Davis was the guest speaker at the Aug. 31 Luverne Rotary Club. Rotarian and Crenshaw County School Board Chairman Steve Sanders was the program chair.