NNSA’s Livermore Lab Partners With Cities and Counties to Track Biological, Chemical Releases

May 22, 2002

NNSA’s Livermore Lab Partners With Cities and Counties to Track Biological, Chemical Releases

The City of Seattle will be the first to participate in a National Nuclear Security Administration pilot project to help local communities better plan for and respond to releases of chemical or biological agents. Under the initiative, local agencies will be able to access the NNSA’s National Atmospheric Release Advisory Center (NARAC) at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) in California, which predicts chemical, biological and nuclear plumes.

The program, called the Local Integration of NARAC with Cities (LINC), will eventually provide a unified tool for city, county, state and federal agencies to use in emergency planning and response.

Since 1979, NARAC has been a national emergency response service that provides planning, real-time assessments and detailed studies of chemical, biological and radiological releases to the Department of Energy and the Department of Defense.

NARAC’s capabilities have been enhanced recently and it can now also provide critical information in the event of an incident involving chemical, biological or natural hazardous material.

When a hazardous material is accidentally released into the atmosphere, NARAC scientists can map the probable spread of contamination in time for an emergency manager to decide if taking protective action is necessary. Since 1979, NARAC has responded to more than 160 alerts, accidents and disasters and supported more than 850 exercises.

"We have a number of cities and counties that would like to be the next demonstration jurisdiction," said Don Ermak, leader of the Lab’s Atmospheric Release Assessment Program, part of the Energy and Environment Directorate.

With the LINC program, initial predictions using the end user’s computer are available in less than a minute, while fully automated NARAC central system predictions can be delivered in five to 10 minutes. NARAC predictions can easily be distributed to multiple users such as local, state and federal government agencies. In addition, NARAC staff is on call around the clock to provide scientific and technical assistance and training.

"This program allows multiple jurisdictions to effectively share information about the areas and populations that could be affected by a release," Ermak said. "Prompt predictions must be available during an event so that first responders can determine what protective actions need to be taken, what critical facilities may be at risk and safe locations where incident command posts can be set up."

LINC is a joint effort of NNSA’s Chemical and Biological National Security Program, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) and Public Technology Inc. (PTI), a non-profit technology organization of the National League of Cities, the National Association of Counties, and the International City/County Management Association.

"PTI links federal government initiatives with local governments that are willing and able to pilot, demonstrate, and utilize various technologies," said Ronda Mosley-Rovi, PTI’s director of Environmental Programs. "LINC, as one of these initiatives, has the potential to save lives within our cities and counties by arming our first responders with a powerful tool that allows them to correctly chart the path of airborne materials and to quickly plan an appropriate response."

The objective is to provide local government agencies with an advanced operational atmospheric plume prediction capability that can be integrated with appropriate federal agency support for homeland security applications.

In the initial stages of the pilot project, NARAC tools and services will be integrated with existing Seattle technology. The systems will be tested, evaluated and the operational capability demonstrated for emergency preparedness and response to chemical or biological urban terrorism. Training and customized support for exercises, special events and general emergencies will also be provided under the program.

Founded in 1952, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory is a national security laboratory, with a mission to ensure national security and apply science and technology to the important issues of our time. Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory is managed by the University of California for the U.S. Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration.

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