Tool could identify chemical agents and alert responders

Researchers at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga recently adapted a Department of Defense project into a pilot project for a real-time decision support tool for biological and chemical weapons.

The project began in 2002 when the university was asked by the DoD to detect where a chemical or biological agent was going after being released. After the DoD moved on from the project, the university continued on with the endeavor as academic research for graduate students. The continued research resulted in a tool that could identify a biological or chemical agent, its location, its nature and where it was going, Emergency Management reports.

The tool uses 700 traffic monitors as part of an intelligent traffic system to provide first responders and emergency management personnel with the information they would need to redirect traffic, evacuate residents and mitigate the presence of the agent. The researchers are using a pilot program to test computerized scenarios and determine if the system provides emergency responders with critical information in real time.

Henry McDonald, the university's chair of excellence in computational engineering, said that there is much more work to do to get the project to the deployment stage.

"To take it from a planning tool to a real-time decision support tool requires a lot of work, and we are embarking on that now," McDonald said, according to Emergency Management . "(Real time updates are the key) because nothing is going to go according to plan during an emergency."

Following the pilot, the National Science Federation will decide if it will continue to support the project. If successful, the university could offer the system to other metropolitan communities, install the software and maintain it, Emergency Management reports.