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February 3, 2012
3 Min Read
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A New York company has created software for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that can predict the impact and path of bomb blasts to help emergency services prioritize their response during these types of disasters.
The Urban Blast Tool, developed for the DHS Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) by Weidlinger Associates, uses an interface based on Google Earth as well as computer modeling and simulation to predict how car or truck bombs would impact the streets of lower Manhattan in New York City, according to the DHS.
The agency is offering the software for free to emergency planners, DHS agencies, architects, engineers, and building owners to come up with safer evacuation routes, design more blast-resistant buildings, and reinforce older buildings, architect Mila Kennett, the S&T program manager who oversaw the software's development, said in a statement.
In the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, scientists tried to determine how bomb blasts would travel from their center down urban canyons, mainly to come up with safe escape routes for people in the vicinity, according to the DHS.
[ Hackers are set to outstrip terrorists as the biggest threat to U.S. security, say officials. See Cyber Attacks Becoming Top Terror Threat, FBI Says. ]
However, it took them weeks to run computational fluid dynamics that calculated the pressure of shockwaves as they radiated--too long to provide information for first responders, who need it within minutes of a bomb's discovery.
The new software developed by Weidlinger stores calculations of a bomb's blast determined using computational fluid dynamics, then applies them to a 3-D model of Lower Manhattan created using Google Earth and Google Streets to create a virtual replica of the streetscape.
The company also used physics-based analytical software codes it had previously developed for the Department of Defense to model blast pressures and structural damage from truck bombs in Iraq. The codes both predict a blast's shock physics in three dimensions and analyze a building's strength to predict damage. Weidlinger used the codes to come up with a way to calculate both of these factors in seconds, according to the DHS.
The tools also includes companion software, called the Emergency Evacuation, Rescue, and Recovery Model (EERR), which evaluates the odds that building columns will fail or emergency systems suffer damage based on different materials, such as steel frames, reinforced-concrete frames, or flat planes.
The feds have for some time been working on better ways to use technology to improve disaster response through efforts underway at agencies like the DHS, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and others.
The DHS and FEMA recently teamed up to test an iPad application that helps train emergency first responders by allowing them to visualize what the scene of a disaster may look like following a catastrophic event.
How 10 federal agencies are tapping the power of cloud computing--without compromising security. Also in the new, all-digital InformationWeek Government supplement: To judge the success of the OMB's IT reform efforts, we need concrete numbers on cost savings and returns. Download our Cloud In Action issue of InformationWeek Government now. (Free registration required.)
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