The group that developed CAMEO is based in Seattle, and officials from NARAC have been talking with them about cooperating on the LINC pilot. "We're starting a dialog with them on how we can make best use of both systems, since the CAMEO system is used by a lot of HAZMAT teams," Nasstrom said. CAMEO's chemical database would complement NARAC's other strengths.

NARAC's system already includes links to meteorological stations across the United States, as well as local map data for the entire country. But to configure it for use by cities and counties, the system needs to integrate more detailed geographic data from local agencies.

"In the case of Seattle, we're working with their GIS group to import all the city map data they routinely use for emergency management," Nasstrom said.

Additionally, NARAC is incorporating feeds from more Seattle-area meteorological stations, as well as local databases that pinpoint where chemicals are stored in certain buildings.

NARAC is also working with firefighters in Seattle's HAZMAT unit to make sure the software interface is easy to use, Croll said.

Tests Planned

Once the partners configure a version of the system for Seattle, they will run drills to show how NARAC responds when users enter data on hypothetical emergencies, Mosely-Rovi said.

The central system at NARAC can provide automated feedback. If need be, live operators can also assist local responders. Seattle will test both scenarios and might also simulate an off-hours emergency, Croll said. In the latter case, NARAC's operators would be paged and asked to rush to the lab to help emergency workers in the field.

The LINC program has received $750,000 from CBNSP. None of this funding goes directly to Seattle. The city receives in-kind support, such as training for its emergency workers. It is also supporting some of the program costs on its own, including hosting meetings and sending its emergency workers to Livermore for additional training.

PTI and LLNL are applying for further funds; they would like to extend the program for three years and bring it to other cities, Mosely-Rovi said. The partners hope to conduct some pilots in cities that are smaller than Seattle and less technically advanced.

"The next city will probably be medium-sized, and then we'll do a small city. The learning curve will be different in each one," she said.

In every case, the prospect for local agencies and their partners is exciting, Mosely-Rovi said. "I'm absolutely convinced that we're onto something really big here and it's going to save lives."

Merrill Douglas  |  Contributing Writer