Argonne announces GIS extension for tracking disabled

Published 16 May 2007

Emergency planners near a chemical weapons depot are convinced; a heightened emphasis on preparing the sick for emergencies ahead of time

One thing leads to another. An Argonne National Laboratory effort to secure Albama’s Anniston Army Depot — one of seven such sites that store chemical weapons — has assisted planners in the nearby area in making contingency plans for disabled and other vulnerable citizens, including those without transportation and latchkey children. The project began in 1998 with Army funding under the Chemical Stockpile Emergency Preparedness Program, and relied on local data and emergency planning documents to develop a extension to commercial Geographic Information Systems software that maps out special needs. The study covered most of a six-county area near Anniston with 115,000 households and 275,000 residents, of whom about 9 percent reported special needs.

In that case, after using the software to survey the vulnerable population and organzie the results, 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. And although Argonne is supposed to study the remaining U.S. chemical bases, it is so heartened by these results that it is releasing its Special Population Planner GIS application to the public now for free, or at least that part of it using ArcView GIS software. For example, a group in Pennsylvania is using the software to build a database of Alzheimer’s disease patients in their coverage area.