Nov. 28, 2012

HOPS assists emergency responders

East Coast emergency responders assisting people in the wake of Hurricane Sandy are receiving a helping hand from LLNL's web-based Homeland-Defense Operational Planning System (HOPS).

The HOPS program provides standardized Geographic Information System-based planning and operational tools along with numerous layers of U.S. critical infrastructure information that can be used to make assessments by federal, state, regional, local and tribal emergency responder agencies.

Currently, about 1,000 users, including federal, military, state, county and city emergency operations centers use HOPS services. During the past two days, the HOPS team has provided critical infrastructure information and technical reachback services to the Pennsylvania National Guard and a number of East Coast emergency response agencies in coordination with Department of Homeland Security (DHS) geospatial information exchange managers.

The HOPS program incorporates the Homeland Security Infrastructure Program data base, which includes infrastructure information for the entire United States. This includes, for example, flood and inundation zones, locations of electrical and other utility services, public health and safety information such as hospitals, the location of emergency services and shelters, police and fire stations, and even agricultural operations, from dairy farms to orchards.

"We received a call from our federal sponsor, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), on Monday to provide our services to emergency responders for Hurricane Sandy," said Craig Wuest, the Lab's HOPS leader. "Their decision was made, in part, because Washington, D.C. was largely shut down Monday and Tuesday."

During the past 18 months, the HOPS program has been expanded and upgraded to include some 500 layers of U.S. infrastructure information, some of which are being used to assist emergency responders with Hurricane Sandy.

"We now have a much richer data set that can be applied for sites that have major population centers or hazards, and can help emergency responders deal with major events, from earthquakes and hurricanes to terrorist attacks," Wuest said.

"Since it's Web-based, as long as you have Internet access, different agencies can receive and share information, and quickly update information for their responses," Wuest added.

While this is the first time that the LLNL HOPS program has been operated for a large-scale hurricane, the Livermore system has been used for wild land fires in Colorado and California during the past year.

HOPS also contains an information inventory of more than 1,000 toxic substances and provides details about how the substances affect people, along with treatment methods and cleanup.

First announced in 2002, the HOPS program was originally developed as an analysis tool to assist government agencies in preventing and mitigating terrorist attacks. It was used to model buildings, stadiums, convention centers and landmarks, providing assistance in developing vulnerability assessments and emergency response plans.

HOPS was used in 2000 to assist the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department in planning for the Democratic National Convention and to support the California National Guard for security during the 2002 World Series. More recently, the HOPS team partnered with the Oklahoma National Guard to provide a vulnerability and risk assessment for Boone Pickens Stadium at Oklahoma State University.