Counties' system maps out dangers

The Kentucky Chemical Stockpile Emergency Preparedness Program

When Kentucky state and local officials used to conduct emergency training

exercises around the Blue Grass Army Depot, which stockpiles lethal chemicals,

they relied on dated paper road maps and the phone book to alert people.

"We discovered they were using black-and-white county highway maps,

enlarged to a 36-by-48 inch size and then taken to a local copy shop and

laminated," said Jim Fries, an executive consultant with Frankfort, Ky.-based

PlanGraphics Inc. The laminated maps were tacked to a wall, and people used

grease pencils to mark them up, he said.

Since then, PlanGraphics helped develop a geographic information system

for the region in a multiphase project.

For the latest exercise in October, emergency management personnel hooked

up a laptop computer — loaded with a mapping program — to a projector

displaying the nine-county area surrounding the depot. Underlying the maps

were data on evacuation routes, the location of daycare facilities, nursing

homes and assisted living sites, hospitals and schools, and other pertinent


Should a chemical plume drift in a particular direction, emergency workers

could locate affected facilities immediately on the map and click on the

representative icons to show information such as the number of patient beds

at a particular hospital or students at an elementary school with contact

names and telephone numbers. In the past, such information wasn't on hand.

"If it [the data] was anywhere, it was written on a piece of paper in

the book or they would have to make a call to the principal or board of

education to get that data," said Bill Hilling, the state emergency management

division planning project supervisor for the state's Chemical Stockpile

Emergency Preparedness Program.

CSEPP is a joint initiative between the Army and the Federal Emergency

Management Agency to develop and coordinate on- and off-post preparedness

plans, upgrade response capabilities and conduct training. In addition to

Kentucky, seven other Army installations — in Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado,

Indiana, Maryland, Oregon and Utah — store and dispose of nerve and blister


Hilling said that about $38,000 in FEMA funds were used to purchase

a large format plotter, a computer, and ESRI ArcView products.

Earlier this year, PlanGraphics, working with state agencies and regional

entities, collected data and created base map layers using aerial photography

and satellite imagery. On top of that, more than 60 topographic and thematic

layers were created. A nine-county composite map and individual base maps

for each county also were developed.

John Antenucci, president and chief executive officer of PlanGraphics,

said the company designed the system so people who have never used GIS could

learn quickly. Because county and state workers have varying levels of knowledge

and expertise, PlanGraphics simplified the presentation of information,

lifting some counties to a technological level they have never seen before.

Fries said modeling applications such as plume, population density and/or

evacuation routing eventually will be integrated into the system.

Hilling said the GIS program can be used to respond to any disaster,

whether they are hazardous material events or tornadoes, floods and snowstorms.

Eventually, he said the state wants to expand the initiative to all of its

120 counties.

Within the nine-county region, he said several jurisdictions directly

send updated data and other relevant information via e-mail or CDs whenever

they can. As the state and counties get more familiar with the system, it

will be easier to update information.

Many areas in the country are not collaborating to build and share datasets,

Antenucci said. "There's a general misconception of the quality and comprehensiveness

of the databases needed in an emergency situation," he said. "We are, as

a country, in most jurisdictions, unprepared."


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