Software takes guesswork out of emergency planning
A software program that simulates nuclear and chemical leaks and airborne biological agents can help guide officials in emergency preparedness planning. The software combines real-time weather tracking, including wind, humidity, temperature and altitude, and allows users to predict how an emission would spread based on its specific properties. Used as a beneficial tracking tool to predict possible biochemical and other hazardous attacks, the software provides guidance for response, agent dispersion in parts-per-million, potential casualties and evacuation patterns.
The product, appropriately named StaySafe, touts itself as a hazard avoidance software program, and was developed by Eyekon Technologies, a Canadian software development company. StaySafe, employed with the company’s simulation and artificial intelligence technology — aptly called Intuition — puts simulation capabilities into a CD-ROM/Web-based solution. The Intuition system uses real-time data within non-linear simulated environments to determine optimum responses. The technology, which has been used by large oil companies to run simulations and optimizations for processing situations, is currently being used in the biotech, financial and engineering industries, and most recently, has found its way into the security industry.
Rob Lowery, president and CEO of Eyekon says it is the type of technology officials in government sectors should be adapting to. “It’s a new requirement,” he says. “People are realizing [a potential attack] could happen again. This is a tool that monitors, educates and prepares.”
Col. Kenneth Allard (ret.), an independent consultant, former U.S. Army intelligence officer and special assistant to the Army chief of staff, is the current security expert for Eyekon Technologies. “You’ll never predict what will occur or when — that’s besides the point,” Allard says.
But knowing how to respond to any situation, he says, is the key. “What former mayor [Rudy] Guiliani did right when responding to the state of New York after Sept. 11, was that he and his staff were prepared — everybody knew what their jobs were and how they were supposed to respond,” he says. “Forget about the technology for a second, to preface that, you have to have a specific methodology first. You have to figure out the process and make sure you’re asking the right questions.”
To help officials stay informed during times of crisis, StaySafe software features a library of scientific data on the 100 most threatening chemical, biological and radioactive agents, including a review of symptoms, prevention and suggested treatments for exposure. Users can research by names of agents, countries where they originated and possible symptoms, should exposure occur.
The software incorporates a map generator as well, enabling users to map attack occurrences. The application uses a graphical user interface (GUI) and is detailed to allow the user to zoom in and out, or scroll without any time delay for a two-dimensional view — from across the region, or down to street-level. As the GUI receives information, standard visualization methods such as contours of concentration, three levels of danger zones and fatality rates give the user a full display as it is unfolding. The software’s forecasting ability is even able to predict future dispersion of the agent, and the potential fallout of such contaminants in one-minute increments.
According to Lowery, the technology is successful because it “looks into the future, predicting before it knows,” he says. “Based on the simulation, it places an observer in the environment, and based on the releases given, it gives the observer the best route to take, as far away from the inhalants as possible.”
In the past, Allard says, state and local municipalities have lacked the understanding of what they should do in situations like the Sept. 11 attacks, because previously, they were never faced with having to prepare for such instances. “What happened on Sept. 11 was that we realized we were living in a fool’s paradise,” he says. “We’re incredibly vulnerable, and we have loopholes in our security.”
StaySafe software incorporates communications with the National Safety Preparedness Network (NSPN) to support emergency response efforts for those in response positions to communicate effectively with their counterparts across the nation. Users join the network, enabling them to alert one another during an actual emergency, using instant messaging, e-mail, message boards and chat rooms. With these capabilities, the technology assists municipalities in the development and planning of emergency response conditions.
Although Allard says that the possibilities of such occurrences didn’t go unnoticed, it was the preparation for it that was never really addressed. “What this tool does is gives us the opportunity to close a loophole at the local level — emergency preparedness and civil defense.”