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7/15/2010
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Louisiana Gets Its Own Google Earth

Residents of Louisiana now have access to a customized version of Google Earth designed to help them cope with emergencies, unless they use Mac OS X or Linux.

The State of Louisiana has launched Louisiana Earth, downloadable client software that connects to the State's Google Earth Enterprise server to provide Louisiana citizens with emergency planning assistance.

Louisiana has been running a Google Earth Enterprise server, a privately hosted version of Google Earth, for about three years.

"We use it for day-to-day planning and we also use it for emergency response, " explained Brant Mitchell, deputy director of the Louisiana Department of Homeland Security, in a video about the project.

Now the Governor's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness (GOHSEP) has made client software available to the public to help citizens stay informed during emergencies.

The public client does not display all the information available to government users, but what it does show is relevant to those trying to cope in emergencies.

One such crisis is the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Louisiana Earth offers a data layer that includes aerial oil sighting data, oyster bed closures, and environmental data, such as bird nesting areas.

In the event of a hurricane, the software can display evacuation routes and information about the location of shelter, gas stations, pharmacies and medical facilities, groceries stores, and banks.

Users of Mac OS X and Linux may wish to befriend a few Windows users to make sure they have access to lifesaving emergency information. Windows XP and Windows Vista are the only two operating systems listed under the software's system requirements notice.

Freedom from platform limitations of this sort may be one reason that Apple reportedly acquired Poly9, which makes a browser-based global map.

Louisiana officials also see Louisiana Earth as a tool to assist tourism when emergencies aren't underway. GOHSEP says the software will be available to promote Louisiana through the mapping of cultural events, such as festivals and parades, and outdoor activities, such as hiking, hunting, fishing, and sports.

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