While that’s impressive, Virtual Beverly Hills is not just an earthquake-mapping tool — its capabilities go further. In this modern era of terror, other disaster scenarios beyond just the natural variety must be considered. For this reason, Virtual Beverly Hills also can map the potential damage areas produced by an explosive device or a chemical spill. The system also shows emergency personnel where evacuations might be required and even provides easy access to homeowner contact information.

“For situational awareness, the emergency responders can add data layers based on the type of event,” Kebede said. “If there is a report of an explosive, first responders could automatically calculate the potential area to be evacuated.”

To accomplish this, a user would simply select a point on the map, and using a drop-down menu, select from a variety of explosives, each displaying values unique to their type. TNT, for example, has distinct destructive capability that’s different from C4 or a simple pipe bomb. The values are also changeable if emergency personnel find themselves dealing with an unorthodox explosive.

With the appropriate explosive selected, Virtual Beverly Hills then shows where the affected population resides and can display the results by age if officials need to evacuate those requiring assistance. The system also identifies critical infrastructure that would be affected by a blast.

The process is similar for other kinds of localized threats.

“Say a chemical spill is reported, a user can identify what the perimeter is the first responder should focus on,” Kebede said. “Users can select what type of chemical it is, whether it’s day or night. It will identify the area to be evacuated and where the potential damage will be.”

Past, Present and Future

Work on building Virtual Beverly Hills began more than a year ago. CIO Schirmer said Mayor Delshad was enthusiastic about building a next-generation mapping tool that could be used by the city, regional governments and eventually the state.

“We knew that we needed a new application to support our EOC [Emergency Operations Center], which was new as well,” Schirmer said. “But we wanted to do more, to bring in lots of different data sources and create this common operating platform so that all the members [and] different branches of the EOC could be on the same platform.”

So with the blessing of the mayor and City Council — who lobbied for and won $800,000 from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program — Schirmer and his staff consulted with other agencies and states. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was an obvious first stop, but the city also worked with Maryland to learn about its mapping application, StateStat.

Chad Vander Veen  | 

Chad Vander Veen previously served as the editor of FutureStructure, and the associate editor of Government Technology and Public CIO magazines.