Argonne National Laboratory is reporting an introduction of a new open-source software to track and to help disabled individuals in case of a natural disaster, war or other emergencies.
The software provides a database for creating a list of individuals with special needs throughout a given emergency planning area. Individuals with special needs include the physically, mentally and medically disabled, those without transportation and latchkey children.
The project began in 1998 with funding from the U.S. Army under the Chemical Stockpile Emergency Preparedness Program for the seven areas across the country where chemical weapons are stored. These areas have emergency evacuation plans for neighboring residents, and Argonne researchers were asked to gather data and develop software to help identify and plan for individuals with special needs at the Anniston Army Depot site near Anniston, Ala. The study covered most of a six-county area with 115,000 households and 275,000 residents, of whom about 9 percent reported special needs.
The next step was to learn who these individuals are, where they are located, and what special requirements they have, said Ed Tanzman, who led the project for Argonne’s Decision and Information Sciences Division. Registrations were collected through annual direct-mail solicitations, supported by advertising and telephone contacts. In Anniston, local officials recognized that first responders would be unable to rescue every registered person in case of emergency. Instead, they decided to help make these people more self-reliant by offering them adapted protective equipment, training and services.
“Hurricane Katrina highlighted the national problem of emergency planning for persons with special needs, when a number of residents — many disabled persons or their caregivers — were trapped for days at the Superdome because of evacuation problems,” Tanzman said. “During Hurricane Rita, about three weeks later, 44 assisted-living-facility residents were being evacuated on a motorcoach when it caught fire, killing 23. These events made it clear to the public that those who are disabled and disadvantaged are at great risk during emergencies. Specialized plans are needed to help them become better able to implement such protective actions as sheltering or evacuation.
“With the U.S. Census Bureau estimating that up to 19 percent of the population is disabled,” Tanzman said, “the Army recognized a need to make this software available to all emergency planners, not just those near Anniston Army depot. Using the Argonne-developed software, emergency planners for any area can begin building a database of persons with special needs and developing emergency response or evacuation plans to accommodate them.”
To learn more about the software, head on to Special Population Planner software page…
Press release: New software helps emergency planners assist people with special needs …
Flashback: BoingBoing Shamefully Ignores Valid Questions; More about User-Generated Content; WhoIsSick.org: Hypochondriacs Welcome!