[Sandia the home of some great IO researchers issued a new anti terror tool.
Have a close look at the photo as it shows the program which seems to be
based on lots of mathematical models. WEN.]


August 20, 2002

Sandia researchers help prepare public health officials, others with anti-terror
“decision analysis” tool

Sandia National Laboratories systems analyst Dawn Kataoka (standing) describes
the Weapons of Mass Destruction Decision Analysis Center (WMD-DAC) computer
program to a group of observers. The center, located at Sandia/California, uses
medical data and sophisticated computer simulation capabilities to offer
government officials and other decision-makers a realistic tool for responding
to a terrorist event.

Download 300dpi JPEG image, ‘VDC02.jpg’, 52K (Media are welcome to
download/publish this image with related news stories.)

LIVERMORE, Calif. — Imagine the unimaginable: terrorists have released a
biological agent throughout the San Francisco Bay Area that threatens local
residents. Key decision-makers and government entities — including public health
officials, law enforcement, emergency management personnel, elected officials,
and media — must quickly decide how to respond. The speed and effectiveness with
which they do so may mean life or death for dozens — or thousands — of citizens.

Officials at the local, state, and federal levels are actively addressing this
problem, and efforts are well underway to identify effective counter measures to
reduce the destructive impact of such a threat. For their part, researchers at
Sandia National Laboratories in California are developing a sophisticated tool
meant to assist government officials and others involved in emergency response.
The program, initially designed for public health officials, was produced by
Sandia/CA’s Weapons of Mass Destruction Decision Analysis Center (WMD-DAC).
Researchers are working on enhancements that will expand the program to other
key entities.

“If an event like this were to occur, decision-makers would have to act quickly
and efficiently, but without the luxury of having all of the information at
their fingertips immediately,” said Howard Hirano, a manager in Sandia/CA’s
Exploratory Systems Department. “What we’re doing is creating the situation
ahead of time so that — by playing through various scenarios — the involved
decision-makers can examine various protection and reaction schemes and figure
out what works best under different conditions.”

Hirano said the program will help answer some of the more pressing questions
facing decision-makers, from city officials all the way up to the White House.

“How much of an emphasis should we place on building up stockpiles of anthrax
prophylaxis? What portion of our investment should go into developing a stronger
information network between physicians? And how important are early warning
sensor technologies? These are some of the issues that the WMD-DAC program can
help address,” said Hirano.

The hub of the program is Sandia’s Visualization Design Center (VDC), a “war
room” of sorts that allows users to better comprehend complex issues and
situations. The program utilizes advanced computers, display systems and
software tools that simulate an attack based on real and projected data.

For the Bay Area model, for example, researchers integrate information on
symptoms, illnesses, and deaths gathered from local hospitals and coroners’
reports in order to accurately simulate and understand the impact of identifying
trends as early as possible. Using this and other data such as air measurements
or more detailed physicians’ reports, response strategies can be examined and
tested by decision-makers. “The idea is that a public health director or other
key official can take the information they learn from the simulated event and
integrate it into their own emergency plans,” said Howard.

This simulation capability is the result of a six-month “program definition
study” — completed in June 2001 — during which Sandia/CA personnel analyzed new
threats and the site’s unique capabilities in combating those threats. The
researchers determined that a more integrated approach was necessary, one that
brought together the perspectives of the many decision-makers as they sought to
deal with an event that unfolds over days and weeks, having to make decisions
along the way with incomplete information. The result was the WMD-DAC, an
interactive, multi-player simulation “facility” that presents information in a
format useful to decision-makers with an underlying — but user transparent —
core based on the latest technical knowledge.

While Sandia/CA researchers were examining the many dimensions and decisions
that are fundamental during a biological attack, the events of September 2001 —
and the subsequent anthrax scare — added a sense of urgency to the work.
Officials with the Department of Energy and Department of Defense, anticipating
the next wave of attacks, sought new strategies to protect citizens, and the
current WMD-DAC approach was accelerated.

First piloted against a biological attack of the San Francisco Bay Area, the
program is now being adapted to address other threats and applications.

“The simulated scenario has really resonated with the physicians and other
decision-makers we’ve worked with to date,” said Hirano. “It’s clear they’ve
thought about the problems and decisions they’d be faced with during an attack,
and consequently they’ve helped us to focus on key details and information they
will need.” Hirano said the overwhelming response has been positive, with
several officials commenting on the value of the simulation tool in making their
jobs more effective during a terrorist event.

Sandia researchers continue to look at additional capabilities that will allow
the simulation to address other dimensions and data. One feature currently in
the works, for example, is the ability to track a moving population, an
important detail for health officials following the spread of contagious
diseases such as smallpox. The ability to detect biological agents or other
materials soon after they are released — a Sandia capability already far along
in the development and testing stage — will also be an added feature in some


Sandia is a multiprogram laboratory operated by Sandia Corporation, a Lockheed
Martin Company, for the United States Department of Energy’s National Nuclear
Security Administration under contract DE-AC04-94AL85000. With main facilities
in Albuquerque, N.M., and Livermore, Calif., Sandia has major research and
development responsibilities in national security, energy and environmental
technologies, and economic competitiveness.

Sandia media contact: Mike Janes, [EMAIL PROTECTED], (925) 294-2447

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