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Clark School Expert, Visualization Tool Demonstrate Crisis Communication

Staff and students from the Center for Advanced Transportation Technology Laboratory (CATT Lab) and Assistant Professor Peter Sunderland (fire protection engineering) recently volunteered their time to assist the National Academy of Engineering with a presentation at the USA Science & Engineering Expo. The goal of the presentation was to discuss the complexities of communication efforts between experts, news reporters and the public during an incident.

The presentation, “Mixed Messages: Communicating Complexity in a Crisis” used the CATT Lab’s Virtual Incident Management Training as a visualization tool, depicting the actions of various emergency response personnel as the scenario unfolded. The scenario included a collision between two vehicles near a Metro station, with one of the vehicles carrying gas canisters. One of the gas canisters contained phosgene, a poisonous industrial chemical used to make plastics and pesticides. The gas was used as a weapon during World War I. The van exploded, and the gas spread around. It is heavier than air, so the underground Metro station was shut down.

Sunderland served as an expert on the behavior of the gas, to help inform how emergency personnel should respond to the crisis.

Also on the stage were: Sharon Kenny, environmental engineer with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; and Bob Marbourg, traffic reporter with WTOP. CATT Lab participants facilitating the Virtual Incident Management Training software included Jenny Lees, Todd Lees, Michael Couture, and Walter Lucman.

For more information about the Expo, visit: USA Science & Engineering Expo.

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May 3, 2012

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