BEVERLY HILLS—With Beverly Hills being one of the major residential and business centers in Los Angeles, it comes as no surprise that the logistics of getting information to the necessary parties in case of an emergency can become problematic. To combat this issue, city information technology officials decided to turn to an invention—a digital version of the city itself. Called Virtual Beverly Hills (VBH), the geospacial decision support system allows for the response and analysis of emergencies in more efficient ways than ever before.

Built by the city of Beverly Hills using homeland security technology from Redlands, Calif. based company ESRI, VBH aims to bring together information “feeds” from a vast assortment of sources to help make assessments and responses to emergencies as effective as possible. These feeds include earthquake shake maps, fire perimeters, weather statistics, closed-circuit television footage, automated vehicle locations and reported emergency incident data. Authorized users can then utilize any number of these feeds to fit the needs of a given situation.

“We were able to develop advanced spatial analysis and intuitive reporting tools,” explains Lema Kebede, GIS manager of the city of Beverly Hills. “This is essential for emergency management and public safety, where speed, usability, interoperability and availability are critical.”

In action, VBH can be operated in a way somewhat similar to social networking tools, with agents having the ability to write status updates for emergency responders from an office computer or from a mobile device. Other functions include the ability to produce instantaneous damage assessments during disasters such as earthquakes, as well as identifying general crime patterns. The system also incorporates fail-safe parameters in the case of a network failure at a critical time, saving the most essential information locally.

It recently had a successful test run during the L.A. Marathon and is currently in general use by city staff. The system was designed to be able to accommodate new functions in the future, and possibly will be expanded to other areas.