Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Nuke the Neighborhood - Part 2

As noted yesterday, within the past year organizations in private industry like UPMC have gone retro when it comes to nuclear weapons (side note: this discussion is NOT about a dirty bomb, rather, it is about the real thing).  So has the Department of Health and Human Services  (DHHS), where an era thought long gone has come back to haunt under the guise of asymmetric warfare.  So experts are trying to get their arms around the thought of saving as many souls as possible if terrorism should bestow a nuke in the midst of an American city.  The options are limited, with geospatial serving as one of the few answers.  To that end, some of the ways geospatial has the potential to help preparedness/response efforts include:
  1. It's back to the 50's - some buildings are better than others when it comes to surviving the initial event and aftermath.  Furthermore, a Standford University study showed that sheltering in place for 12-24 hours after a detonation, versus attempting to immediately evacuate, significantly improves the odds of survival.  Mapping out fallout shelters in advance and marking them is a good strategy to plus up this reality. 
  2. Although availability of working electrons in the survivable zone of a blast would be a miracle, a smart phone mapping app that individuals could use beforehand to famarilize themselves with the shelter potential of their everyday surroundings would be another way geospatial could help the cause.
  3. As indicated on the UPMC site, creating a "Fallout Mapping System" is an important preparatory step for the decision making community.  Although states with nuclear power plants actively participate in FEMA's Radiological Emergency Preparedness Program (REPP) that can generate information similar to the map view available by clicking this link, more than a few states have less robust capability and would be limited in their ability to begin immediate response planning.  However, in either case, for this flow of information to work and have value, there has to be a plan that facilitates both the collection, and geospatial display, of event data so that the best choices can be made by decision makers.  
  4. Post event evacuation planning will be complicated by the reality that flash blindness, panic and infrastructure failures will create a complex and abnormal transportation network.  To the degree remote sensing in any form - like highway cameras - continues to work, it's critical that these information flows are shared in a region-wide Common Operating Picture (COP). 
  5. Finally, should there be an opportunity to evacuate prior to detonation, post Katrina efforts by researchers at the University of Minnesota have produced geospatial planning software that can support that need, as well as the need for any other type of major city evacuation.  You can find it here.

Still want more? For those with really curious minds about all this, here are a few more links:

Comment: It should be apparent by review of the material above that geospatial has a crucial role to play in management of the dreadful scenario being considered.  It will, however, be of no value without forethought, planning and incorporation before something happens.  And failure to do that, will mean lost lives if this type of terror should come to visit.

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