programs are on separate CD-ROMs. Base maps and data for CAMEO are provided by census and TIGER files.

MARPLOT databases are populated with layers of icons that represent the locations of daycare centers, hospitals, schools, businesses that use chemicals, chemical storage sites, emergency-response resources, building floor plans, evacuation routes, and information contained in Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS), which accompany the shipment and storage of all toxic materials. The databases also include emergency contact information for each business or public facility.

When a HAZMAT incident occurs, emergency-response personnel can pull up site-related information; establish the location and the type of chemical involved; take meteorological readings with handheld instruments; plot the dispersal pattern of the plume; and determine the resources and actions needed to contain and eliminate the danger. From the census files, they can assess who is at risk and establish a priority evacuation plan.

Putting the Project Together

Capt. Sullivan offered students an opportunity to solve real-world problems by collecting and inputting information that would actually be used for the safety of the community. The project would save local government hundreds of man-hours of data collection and processing.

The teachers checked out the CAMEO system supplied by EPA Environmental Scientist Leonard Wallace and confirmed that the operations required for data entry were within the students' capabilities. CAMEO could provide all of the GIS tools needed for the project.

Much of the early HAZMAT curriculum dealt with basic problem-solving skills and community knowledge, studying of city government, learning how business operates, and studying regulations governing the handling of toxic materials. "The process helped students to see Chelsea as a political entity within the scope of state, regional and national laws applying to HAZMATs," Paul explained.

EMS Supervisor Scott Watson and Chelsea students Dario Vukovic, Quang Luu and Sang Luu (l to r) prepare for the simulated chemical spill.


Emergency response personnel came to the class and talked about the operations and responsibilities of the different agencies. The fire captain provided a database that enabled students to populate MARPLOT with all of the city's HAZMAT information, and Laurie Berger wrote lessons for processing the data into CAMEO and MARPLOT.

"All of these activities," Wallace added, "helped students to see firsthand how important the data really is, [and] that it is crucial in making decisions about community health and safety. Failure to evacuate a school or apartment building could result in serious injuries or even death."

Data Collection and Entry

Students and Emergency Management prepared letters to selected businesses in the city and set up appointments. The students then went out and, on behalf of LEPC, collected floor plans, evacuation routes, contact personnel information and Material Safety Data Sheets associated with HAZMAT storage and shipments.

Before the first semester ended, the new project was under way. It took most of the year to collect and enter the information. In the process, students learned enough about CAMEO to do health and risk assessments by simulating plumes over different areas and then pulling up census data to see what the impact would be in that part of the city.

More Involvement for students

Toward the end of the school year, the project was expanded to include a simulated HAZMAT release that involved a chemical plant and the new elementary school complex. The entire scenario and mitigation process was to be carried out by students playing the roles of command officers. They would see firsthand how an incident unfolds and how their work is used. The plan required liability releases from parents and close communication with the school superintendent and principal.

A month before the exercise, the Office of Emergency Management provided actual job descriptions and, with the teachers,