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EMERGENCY RESPONSE IN THE POST-9/11 WORLD
by MONTANA NEWS ASSOCIATION
by Jim Kouri, CPP
An earthquake rocks a large modern city, injuring hundreds of people, producing major structural damage, knocking out electrical power, breaking gas mains and causing an industrial plant to leak toxic chemicals. Collapsed bridges and buildings prevent emergency vehicles from reaching the injured, attending to dozens of small fires before they become big ones and carrying supplies to hospitals and rescue workers.
How do emergency responders and city officials cope with the situation? How do they deploy resources where they are most needed? How can they prepare in advance for such disasters, and what can they do to recover from them?
Los Alamos National Laboratory researchers began working in 1998 on a project to give city officials, regional planners, police and other agencies upgraded tools to help them plan for and respond to disasters such as earthquakes. They continue their research especially after the 9/11 terrorist attacks and Hurricane Katrina.
The project, called the Urban Security Initiative, links a wide range of urban subsystems -- including transportation, energy distribution, weather, infrastructure damage, water distribution, ecosystems, economic activities, geology and demographics -- into an integrated system that takes advantage of the Lab's high-performance computing capability.
The project, now operating for a seventh year with internal Lab funding, involves many scientific disciplines, huge amounts of data, dozens of computer programs and tricky interfaces, and numerous collaborations. Officials at Los Alamos liken it to a big jigsaw puzzle being assembled by different groups, with various sections emerging and then needing to be connected properly to make a complete picture.
The Los Alamos team focuses on several major areas: air and water transportation pathways, earthquakes and infrastructure, recovery and re-growth, airborne toxic releases with traffic exposure, integrating the pieces of the project and geographic information systems to collect and organize data into common databases.
They've successfully linked this information across all kinds of (computer) platforms with the hope that it will allow those responsible for dealing with an emergency to click a button and find out just what is damaged and threatened, where the resources for responding are located and how to get them deployed.
In addition to improving the ability to respond to an emergency, the project is designed to help prepare for catastrophic events more effectively. In order for a user community to know how to deal with the immediate aftermath of an earthquake, it would be very helpful to conduct training simulations.
One of the team's collaborations is with the Southern California Earthquake Center and other California agencies on a project that links computer models of seismic ground motion, earthquake damage predictions and the infrastructure of the city of Los Angeles in order to enhance pre-event planning and emergency response efforts.
Current activities as part of this collaboration include modeling the effects of a major earthquake on infrastructure in the Los Angeles area. A database containing information about local geology, ground motion from shock waves, vulnerabilities of the infrastructure and other factors will be linked with computer models such as those for damage assessment, infrastructure operations during emergencies and longer-term recovery.
The project team reported useful findings. For instance, it found that a gas plume travels farther in the presence of buildings. The reason is that turbulence caused by the buildings lifts the plume higher in the air, allowing it to be carried by stronger winds aloft.
In addition to collaborating on earthquake modeling in Southern California, the team is working with several federal agencies, other cities and several professional organizations. It initiated and is working with other organizations on a program to urge additional studies of urban systems, including seeking a declaration of the years 2001-2010 as the "Decade of Science in the Cities."
Today, almost all the growth in the world is in the cities, and they are the most vulnerable places for natural or human-caused disasters. Developing a science-based understanding of their vulnerabilities will help them survive, according to officials at Los Alamos.
Sources: US Department of Energy, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Federal Emergency Management Agency, National Security Institute, National Association of Chiefs of Police, Federal Freedom of Information Act
Jim Kouri, CPP is currently fifth vice-president of the National Association of Chiefs of Police. He's former chief at a New York City housing project in Washington Heights nicknamed "Crack City" by reporters covering the drug war in the 1980s. In addition, he served as director of public safety at a New Jersey university and director of security for several major organizations. He's also served on the National Drug Task Force and trained police and security officers throughout the country. He writes for many police and security magazines including Chief of Police, Police Times, The Narc Officer and others. He's a staff writer for New Media Alliance (thenma.org), and he's a columnist for
TheConservativeVoice.Com, AmericanDaily.Com, MensNewsDaily.Com, MichNews.Com, and he's syndicated by AXcessNews.Com. He's appeared as on-air commentator for over 100 TV and radio news and talk shows including Oprah, McLaughlin Report, CNN Headline News, MTV, Fox News, etc. His book Assume The Position is available at Amazon.Com, Booksamillion.com, and can be ordered at local bookstores. If you wish to sign up for his intelligence reports, write to JimKouriReports@aol.com.