Security personnel for the Littleton, Colo., school district are testing an experimental, portable security system that uses stored images of building interiors to aid police and rescue workers in the event of an emergency.

The system’s developers say it could speed up emergency-response times while keeping police and rescue crews safer.

With the click of a triggerlike mouse, a SWAT team could use the system to call up a hard drive’s stored images of a school’s interior layout—including video of its hallways and classrooms—before they enter.

The system could show a fire crew where to find a school’s shutoff valves, for instance, and it could alert police to the potential hiding places of an intruder.

The software at the heart of the system was developed by Guy Grace, who manages the security personnel for the Littleton school district.

Grace sought a better way to investigate break-ins when he began compiling detailed information about Littleton’s public school buildings in a computer program.

Grace’s team is now testing the system in conjunction with the Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Department and the Littleton police and fire departments.

“We’re testing the viability of the software,” said Bill Phillips, president of WorldNet Technologies. “It’s the most extensive I’ve ever seen. It goes beyond floor plans and becomes an informational tool.”

The Conifer, Colo.-based company assembled the security system by combining Grace’s program with cutting-edge computer gear provided by private firms.

One emergency-response vehicle from each agency will be fitted with a small monitor, a keyboard, a headset, and a 1-pound, 500-megahertz computer that Phillips said is “more powerful than what most people have on their desks.”

The computer, made by Xybernaut Corp. of Fairfax, Va., becomes portable when attached to the belt of an officer wearing the headset and carrying the monitor.

The agencies also will test tiny chest-mounted cameras that could let a police officer search a building while transmitting live images to a computer screen outside.

“What he’s seeing is being broadcast back to the command station,” Grace said.

Grace began creating his software program before the April 1999 shootings at the district’s Columbine High School, and he is reluctant to speculate whether the system would have made a difference in the emergency response had it been available then.

“It may have helped,” he said. “There’s no way you can say.”

However, the system holds great promise for future law enforcement and rescue work, according to Arapahoe County Undersheriff Grayson Robinson.

“It’s something that will benefit us all, whether it’s a critical incident or something as simple as a medical assist or a water leak in one of the schools,” he said. “The potential is limited only by our imaginations.”


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