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Kentucky, Army sniff out trouble

Nov. 17, 2004

Used with permission from Federal Computer Week
Dibya Sarkar

Officials at Kentucky's Emergency Management Division and the Army are helping develop a prototype Web portal that will integrate disparate data and technology applications to better monitor a chemical depot and respond to any potential incidents.

Officials at PlanGraphics, which is based in Frankfort, Kentucky, are developing the portal during a 10-month period at a cost of about $150,000. It will center around the Blue Grass Army Depot, which is located in the east central part of the state and stores about 2 percent of the nation's chemical weapons.

Jim Fries, an executive consultant at PlanGraphics, said the project would involve integrating environmental and sensor data and tying to an emergency response system.

"The area has tower-mounted sensors that constantly monitor the air for chemical leaks and meteorological stations to monitor wind currents, so they know which way a leak would go," Fries said.

"We're going to bring in a plume model that they use," he said. "We're going to bring in an alert-notification component, where if something should happen, they can send out alerts by telephone or e-mail or over cell phones — any number of ways to distribute instructions."

Company officials will use PlanGraphics' Spatial Templates for Emergency Preparedness (STEPs) methodology, which can map data coming from disparate sources in real time.

Work began with Kentucky's Chemical Stockpile Emergency Preparedness Program, a federally coordinated effort to destroy chemical weapons, and around the depot about three years ago with geographic information system (GIS) functionality developed in phases. State, local and military officials had previously conducted training exercises and viewed information largely using paper-based maps and alerted people by looking them up in a telephone book.

Fries said development began by implementing a rudimentary GIS, collecting some basic data and providing elementary capability using ArcView GIS software from software maker ESRI.  Officials kept adding more functionality, such as search capabilities, and providing ESRI's ArcIMS software to desktops. Authorized officials from all levels of government now have secure access to information about the depot.

The development of the prototype portal will essentially be the fourth phase of the continuing project. "It's really the logical next step in taking the mapping system that we built and integrating it with a lot of other software functionality," Fries said.

He said officials could have built the system much earlier, but they had to take three years because they didn't have much money, a staff or the skills to understand and operate such a system to its full potential.

The portal could be replicable at another seven federal chemical weapons storage sites, but Fries said it would work at any chemical facility, refinery and critical infrastructure location.

"We hear about this all the time in the homeland security arena about the lack of attention to the chemical plants," he said.

The project is being funded by a grant from the Kentucky Science and Engineering Foundation and the Public Safety and Security Institute for Technology at Eastern Kentucky University's Justice and Safety Center.

 

Last Updated 12/10/2004
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