OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - The state fire marshal's office has
purchased new computer tracking software that could help
authorities pinpoint homes and save time when they are trying to
rescue people.
The software, TerraView911, provides exact locations, quickest
routes and other specific information such as building floor plans
and lists of hazardous chemicals at the location.
The program can be used from a laptop computer in an emergency
vehicle, said Todd Wood, chief executive officer of YerraGraphix,
the Indiana company that developed the software.
"Ultimately, this application is easy enough to use that you
can be driving in your car and still looking and manipulating the
map," Wood said. "People don't have time to spend weeks figuring
out how to operate something. They need to operate it on the hood
of a car or in a helicopter."
Initially, the fire marshal's field investigators will use the
software to find the exact locations of inspections and
investigations. Eventually authorities will take advantage of the
software's other potential applications.
In case of a natural disaster such as a tornado, the fire
marshal could use the program to determine the addresses of
buildings that have been destroyed, even when street signs and
other landmarks have been destroyed. Global positioning systems
would direct rescuers to locations where people needed help.
State Fire Marshal Robert Doke said the program would have been
useful after the Cordell tornado in October 2001.
"We were asked to send out a response team and help evaluate
the structures for damage," Doke said. "If we had these devices
at the time, we could do longitude and latitude of where that
structure was and go back to city hall and assign addresses to the
coordinates."
The software will help investigators return to crime scenes when
more information becomes available, even years after the initial
investigation, Doke said. A wooded site, for example, may change
over time, and investigators could use the software to find it
again.
"Let's say that scene is not revisited for several years,"
Doke said. "We can go back probably within 10 feet of the exact
spot and reinvestigate."
The fire marshal also will be able to store results of fire code
inspections that then could be checked on subsequent inspections.
In case of a fire, investigators also would be able to view
inspection results.
"Our inspectors may change," Doke said. "If a new agent comes
in there, he can be right there at the front door. The capabilities
are unbelievable."
Several other Oklahoma agencies are either using the software or
considering it. About 40 agencies nationwide are using the
software.
Doke said this type of tracking software eventually will change
the way police, firefighters and public safety officials respond to
emergencies.
"The day is coming within the next 10 years, they won't ask
what town you are in or what your address is," Doke said. "They
will just ask for coordinates."

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)