Immersive Digital Mapping Service Gives First Responders Unique Visuals and Information

School districts and other private entities can offer situational awareness with the service.

by Jim McKay / September 7, 2018

David Sobel learned early on as a police officer the importance of situational awareness.
As a young officer, he went on a “hot” call, where SWAT was also involved, at a residence. The issues were worked out and everyone went home safely, but as they left the scene, the SWAT commander asked Sobel to go back in the residence and make a sketch of it.

Sobel did as he was told and delivered a very nice diagram to the commander and asked the commander why he had wanted the sketch. The commander explained that they might be back and could use the added situational awareness of knowing where things are.

Fast-forward to today and The Sobel Group offers quite an advanced version of situational awareness in the company’s TSG 360°, an immersive digital mapping service that, during the last year, started increasingly focusing on school districts.

The service allows school districts to offer first responders a high-definition look into every nook and cranny of a school along with features that show every egress and ingress point and search features that allow a first responder to find a room or location with a simple search.

A school district will pay The Sobel Group for the service and allow first responders access. Of course, there is an agreement ahead of time and a very detailed walk-through of the buildings where comprehensive note-taking happens and free training.

“We embed information that’s used by the first responders in the system and even though response protocols are similar, each jurisdiction has wants and needs that another might not have,” Sobel said. Once everyone agrees on the protocols and so forth the production process begins.

That includes the taking of thousands of exceedingly high-resolution images that are stitched together to create 360-by-360-degree “capture locations.” These are married to the proper floor plans or site plans. The finished product shows up on a computer screen, or other device, as side-by-side images, one of the floor plan and one of the 360-by-360 images.

The images include “hot spots,” all egress and egress points. When a user clicks on a hot spot, it presents the user with the next location of an egress or ingress spot, a feature that shows a first responder where to exit a room or building.

Features also include the ability to measure a door, window or room. That allows, as an example, first responders to know the volume of a room if the need to gas it.

This past year, Sobel has added as clients: three high schools in Anaheim, Calif., (and will soon add the Anaheim Unified School District) and Ramona High School in San Diego to his client base that has mostly consisted of private-sector entities to date.

“This is something concrete that we can point to that will have a measurable impact on school safety,” said Michael Matsuda, superintendent of the Anaheim Unified School District. 

“The design is such that officers and in some cases fire, will have it on their terminals in their cars and can pull it up based on location,” Sobel said. “They have a menu system in their cars and in dispatch and in the watch commander’s office.”