Maps will save valuable time during emergency

Published 9:59 pm Tuesday, December 8, 2009

“It could never happen here.” Those words could easily be famous last words. While we do not want to think of the worst-case scenario in our schools, we must prepare for it so we will not be caught off guard.

Clanton Middle School recently completed a new map as part of Virtual Alabama’s school safety program. The map utilizes Google Earth software to record information first responders would need in emergencies.

Using this map, you can quickly locate evacuation routes, first aid kits, power transformers, fire extinguishers, defibrillators, hazardous chemicals, security cameras and more.

Auburn University Montgomery, the Alabama Department of Education, the Alabama Department of Homeland Security, and the Alabama Criminal Justice Information Center are partners in the project.

The ultimate goal is to map each school in each of the state’s 133 districts. The remaining schools will be mapped by local educators, who will receive training.

School floor plans will be accessible by password only. The floor plan is then labeled with 37 items of interest. This will ensure the information is secure from those who might, God forbid, use it for ill.

Whether an emergency should come through the forces of nature or at the hands of a terrorist, one thing is certain — our children are the highest priority. Schools and public safety officials should do everything within their power to prepare for the worst case scenario.

A good example is the 2007 tornado that struck Enterprise High School. First responders spent valuable time there removing rubble and looking for students. The new maps should cut that time by showing precisely where students are evacuated to in an emergency.

This map is a tool we hope never has to be used. But it should help us breathe a little easier to know it’s there.