February 17, 2011 By Andy Opsahl
Eric Frost, founder and director of the San Diego State University Immersive Visualization Center (Viz Lab), is well known in the emergency management field, but he’s rarely in the media spotlight. His approach may be low key, but his accomplishments are significant. Since 2000, the Viz Lab’s advances in visualization technology have transformed how emergency crews respond to disasters.
Viz Lab fuses visuals collected by the Navy, Air Force and numerous other responder agencies into 3-D animations of the field. This empowers responders and command center officials to view identical, true-to-life representations of an incident site, helping them deploy resources more effectively.
The lab’s activities have made new types of information available to local emergency responders. For instance, Viz Lab animations give local firefighters access to visuals collected by the Navy and other agencies that would normally be off-limits.
Establishing collaboration agreements among the various agencies was a groundbreaking achievement on the part of Frost and his staff. Once they negotiate data for their use, the data becomes declassified and can be viewed by the public. Viz Lab imagery now appears online at InRelief.org for any citizen to see. The Viz Lab helped create the portal. Frost is routinely called to the White House to consult on emergency response matters. In 2010, he and other Viz Lab technicians generated important animations for tracking the flow of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
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