New map will help if worst happens

Published 10:42 pm Thursday, December 3, 2009

Clanton Middle School completed a new map this week that will help first responders if the unthinkable should ever happen.

Clanton Middle became the first in the county to complete a map under Virtual Alabama’s school safety program.

The map, which uses Google Earth software, records information that first responders would need in emergencies. It tracks everything from evacuation routes to where first-aid kits and power transformers are located.

“Alabama is leading the nation in the virtual world, in regard to public safety,” said Jeff Blancett, a consultant with the Galena group.

Blancett and Auburn University Montgomery are working to map one school in each of the state’s 133 districts. After that, local educators will map the remaining schools in their districts after receiving training.

All of Alabama’s 1,500 schools should be mapped out by this time next year, Blancett said.

Consultants spent Tuesday and Wednesday mapping Clanton Middle and shared their creation with Chilton County educators Thursday.

The maps start with password-protected images from Google, on which a floor plan of the school is placed. That floor plan is then labeled with 37 items of interest.

“Obviously, information of this nature, you want to make sure it is very, very secure,” said Moody Duff III, a consultant for AUM’s Center for Government.

Fire extinguishers, defibrillators, hazardous chemicals, security cameras and much more are all plotted on the map.

“We pretty much went into every nook and cranny,” said Duff.

For an example of how the map would work, Duff talked about the EF4 tornado that hit Enterprise High School in March 2007.

He said first responders spent valuable time removing rubble and looking for students in places that weren’t tornado evacuation zones. The new maps label where students are evacuated to during severe weather and fire.

CMS Principal Donny Finlayson Jr. said the map is important to have but something he hopes is never used.

“It’s like insurance, we hope it’s never needed,” said Finlayson.

The Alabama Department of Homeland Security, Alabama Department of Education, and Alabama Criminal Justice Information Center are also partners in the project.