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Durham emergency responders use 3-D image technology

Posted April 9, 2010
Updated April 10, 2010

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— Durham emergency responders are now using an advanced tool that creates a 3-D aerial image of a person’s exact location when they call 911.

Pictometry allows communication officers to see a detailed map of a caller's location and visually inspect the area.

In addition, the Durham Emergency Communications Center can easily bring up as many as 12 different angles of any property, building, highway or other feature within Durham County. Officers can get measurements of any area, such as distance, height and elevation, directly from the imagery.

The detailed information on callers' location lets communication officers give more accurate information to emergency responders, so they are even better equipped to deal with situations when they arrive on the scene, said James Soukup, director of the Durham Emergency Communications Center.

“Our communication officers can provide firefighters with remote guidance on the location of electrical wires and other obstacles that might impair access or tell police officers which buildings have multiple angles for entry and escape,” he said.

The software was funded through the North Carolina Chapter of the Emergency Number Association, which received a federal appropriation of $214,605 to implement the technology in Durham.

The Durham center added $66,550 in 911 surcharge funds to cover the remaining cost of the installation. There will be a recurring cost of $1,350 for annual maintenance, officials said.

According to Soukup, the new technology provides benefits and tools not previously available to communication officers.

“The system is wireless, which means our communication officers can now visually follow the caller as they travel along a road during an incident. That type of contact is priceless to you if you are on the other end of the line needing emergency help,” Soukup said.


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  • Shaking My Head In Amusement Apr 9, 2010

    Their system already gave an approximate distance from nearest intersection/cell tower... how is this program improving that? Only way my mind is envisioning anything better is for it to be like a camera hovering over Durham that is able to move to the point/area and give a live image of what's going on.... especially when they say it can track/follow a car requesting help. In THAT case, that's where I'd say it's a little too much "Big Brother" for my comfort.

  • Shaking My Head In Amusement Apr 9, 2010

    I am somewhat seeing the positive effect this can have in some situations. On the other hand, I'm having a hard time envisioning the program & it's means of working. I think I'd need to actually see it to fully understand that and it's potential positive effect. How is it giving the images? Is it like the google satellite thing where you can view a street, house, etc but allows the communicator to click/drag/spin the photo at all angles to see all the way around it? I'm not quite getting the whole "picture" here.