Google Earth Powers Alabama Security Tool

    December 5, 2007

It’s been in the works for at least five months, and Governor Bob Riley has now unveiled the Alabama Department of Homeland Security’s “Virtual Alabama,” in which Google Earth will serve a pivotal function.

“The . . . tool will be used by first responders, county planners, and other officials to get detailed geographic views overlayed with critical information,” reports Frank Taylor on the Google Earth Blog.  “The department can use the tools to build 3D models of schools, bridges, and other critical structures; can model hazardous explosions and environmental factors; and can overlay this information with GIS information showing the location of fire hydrants, gas pipelines, and other important information to help emergency workers.”

It shouldn’t need to be said, but this implementation goes far beyond Google Earth’s original intended uses.  It’s also a bit of a step forward from what we’ve seen recently – mere responses to disasters like floods, fires, and oil spills (as opposed to this sort of planning and preparation).

So, in addition to Governor Riley and Alabama Homeland Security Director Jim Walker, Google Earth’s Chief Technology Officer, Michael T. Jones, was on hand at the release event.  Virtual Alabama is the sort of thing that we hope never needs to be used, but its launch was nonetheless an important moment for Google.