Officials in charge of organizing response plans and resource distribution strategies for major emergencies, such as terrorist attacks or disease outbreaks, will soon have a new resource for identifying problem areas and strengthening response plans.
Armin Mikler, professor of computer science and engineering, has received an $800,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health to develop a computer-based system that will help emergency planners identify vulnerable populations, such as those with no access to vehicles or who cannot leave their homes. They will be able to modify response plans accordingly.
Mikler is working with Tarrant County Public Health on the project, which involves the use of a computer system named "RE-PLAN," which stands for Response Plan Analyzer.
"The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention mandates that all counties have to prepare for adverse events, and our RE-PLAN system can serve as a very useful interface for identifying problem areas and better preparing for emergencies," Mikler says.
Tarrant County Public Health Preparedness Planner Mark Fulmer says the system offers a wide variety of interactive tools to help planners prepare for different scenarios, such as major highways becoming inaccessible and causing resource deliveries to be rerouted.
"Plans are most successful when plenty of data is available for research and testing," Fulmer says. "The RE-PLAN system's benefits really boil down to being a strong source of information that we can use to evaluate and test plans, which is essential before any incident actually occurs."
Mikler is working with Chetan Tiwari, assistant professor of geography; Tamara Schneider, lecturer of computer science and engineering; Renee Bryce, associate professor of computer science and engineering; and Suhasini Ramisetty-Mikler, research associate professor of epidemiology at the UNT Health Science Center, on the project.
Leslie Wimmer with UNT News Service can be reached at Leslie.Wimmer@unt.edu.