In the Event of a Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, or High-Yield Explosive Incident
Domestic Consequence Management Supported with GIS
By Roy Hawkins, U.S. Joint Task Force Civil Support
Whether the use is emergency planning, response, or mitigation, an effective GIS can greatly enhance all phases of consequence management (CM) to support the security of the U.S. homeland.
The Joint Task Force Civil Support (JTF-CS) is a joint military organization that leverages the power of GIS to support the United States federal government in planning for and potentially responding to a full range of high-consequence emergency management events in the United States.
JTF-CS is a deployable component of U.S. Northern Command (USNORTHCOM) and is chartered to rapidly respond to provide lifesaving support in the event of a chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, or high-yield explosive (CBRNE) incident in the continental United States and its territories and possessions.
JTF-CS brings a variety of unique capabilities to the fight, including the use of GIS to support the full spectrum of USNORTHCOM's CBRNE consequence management mission. JTF-CS continues to develop and employ GIS capabilities, such as ArcGIS Publisher, ArcReader, ArcGIS Spatial Analyst, ArcGIS StreetMap extensions, and ArcIMS and other Web-based tools.
These capabilities play a critical role in all aspects of preincident planning. As a tool, GIS can provide JTF-CS with a comprehensive view of an operational environment prior to a CBRNE event. With the help of various federal interagency partners, JTF-CS has compiled, organized, and warehoused an extensive database of geospatial information for the United States.
This comprehensive geospatial database includes nationwide information on chemical industry and hazmat facilities, nuclear power plants, first responder and medical services assets, and other critical infrastructure sectors and key asset categories. With this information, key questions can be addressed, such as the number and types of hospital beds available in an area; the locations, types, and quantities of toxic industrial chemicals stored in the area; and the locations of high-capacity venues, emergency shelters, and emergency operations centers in the area.
This geospatial information can be used to provide the commander of JTF-CS and his staff with a quick assessment of "what if" scenarios involving the potential effects of a CBRNE event on a specific U.S. metropolitan area. With this understanding and knowledge, the JTF-CS commander and staff are able to quickly observe, orient, decide, and act in response to a wide range of potential threats across the United States. These tools and capabilities allow JTF-CS to rapidly begin its mission planning and provide its higher headquarters, USNORTHCOM, with an initial assessment of a CBRNE event, either pre- or postincident.
Determining Potential Impact
In the unfortunate event of a CBRNE incident, GIS tools can be used to track and visualize an incident or hazard area to determine its potential impact on nearby population centers and infrastructure. For example, using ArcGIS Desktop (ArcView), analysts can rapidly display both man-made and natural hazard models along with other relevant data (e.g., population densities, first responder assets, schools, medical facilities, and lines of communication) to provide situational awareness of what has occurred, where it happened, and what is in the affected area. This initial effects assessment is used to support the military decision-making process and give the commander the critical information he needs to make important operational decisions. It is an iterative process.
Another vital GIS capability employed by JTF-CS is its Consequence Management Interactive Mapping Service (CMIMS). CMIMS is an interactive tool that leverages the power of GIS Web technology. CMIMS is a user-friendly, Web-based tool that further supports USNORTHCOM's CBRNE mission. With it, JTF-CS is able to deliver dynamic maps and CBRNE CM relevant data to its higher headquarters, subordinate units, and federal interagency partners via the Web. Users are able to query, analyze, and create a customized geospatial view with information based on their preferences. USNORTHCOM's GIS analysts are able to quickly and seamlessly integrate analytical outputs from separate stand-alone ArcGIS systems, then post CM-relevant information to the CMIMS. The Web site enables vital information sharing among other Department of Defense (DoD) and federal CM stakeholders.
If a CBRNE event occurs in the United States, the GIS capabilities resident at JTF-CS will ensure that our nation's decision makers have the right information at the right time in the right format to speed the government's response to the incident and mitigate its effects.
For more information, contact Sarah Cahill, Joint Task Force Civil Support (e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, tel.: 757-788-6174). Roy Hawkins formerly served as the deputy director of intelligence for JTF-CS, which is responsible for planning and integrating the DoD response to the lead federal agency for domestic CM operations during a CBRNE situation. His experience includes DoD transformation experimentation, all-source intelligence collections, and supporting numerous joint operations.