Gov't officials use Sandia's bioterrorism simulator

Alameda County, Calif., officials recently joined their federal and state counterparts in a six-hour anthrax-attack drill using a simulator developed by an Energy Department laboratory.

Sandia National Laboratories in Livermore, Calif., hosted the mock bioterrorism session on June 12 in the lab's Visualization Design Center, where public health and safety officials got a chance to use Sandia's decision-analysis simulation tool.

When soliciting advice during the development of the simulation, Sandia officials spoke to public health officials in Alameda County, where the lab is located, said Howard Hirano, a manager in Sandia's Advanced Technology Department. The officials said the simulation might be useful in assessing their own bioterrorism plan.

The Weapons of Mass Destruction-Decision Analysis Center tool (Click for recent GCN story) uses Census 2000 data for the San Francisco metropolitan area to give the simulation a realistic initial population of varying ages and gender.

During the course of the six-hour drill, the participants had to make decisions as 35 confirmed and 613 suspected cases of anthrax were reported in Alameda County. Drill leaders supported the simulation with mock e-mail messages and press releases.

The 24 participants included representatives of the FBI, California Department of Health Services, Alameda County Office of Emergency Services and other health organizations.

Sandia officials are working to upgrade the decision-analysis tool with an interface to the National Atmospheric Release Advisory Center at neighboring Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Hirano said. The center models and studies airborne releases of hazardous materials.

The decision-analysis tool contains data for all nine counties in the San Francisco Bay Area. 'We think there will be a benefit to working with other counties, but we're just not funded to do that,' Hirano said.

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