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Introduction: In October 2005, the Alabama Department of Homeland Security (AL DHS) initiated a project to access new technologies in 3D visualization. At the request of the Governor, AL DHS began exploring and identifying ways to leverage existing state asset imagery and infrastructure data into a visualization tool that is affordable, scalable, maintainable, and capable of employing the power of existing and evolving internet based applications. As a result, the Virtual Alabama program was created. Virtual Alabama uses a 3D globe interface to retrieve images from a merged global imagery dataset. This dataset transforms massive amounts of data into useful information for technical and non-technical users. As an example, Virtual Alabama provides the common operating picture and situational awareness needed by Alabama’s first responders to protect lives and safeguard citizens before, during, and after a disaster. Virtual Alabama serves a wide user base of state and local officials at various levels of technological proficiency. As an information tool, Virtual Alabama reduces technology gaps in economically challenged areas and levels the information “playing field’ throughout the state. Additionally, the program provides the ability to integrate and distribute proprietary data securely across the internet. In August 2006, Virtual Alabama reached initial operational capability (IOC). Currently, Virtual Alabama has over 36,000 users representing over 3000 agencies and the best imagery available from all 67 Alabama counties loaded into the program.

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