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Information fusion research simulates disasters to manage emergency response

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Improving how decision-makers respond in the minutes and hours that follow the first reports of a natural disaster like the recent tsunami or a manmade incident, such as a chemical accident or a terrorist attack, is the focus of a research project at the University at Buffalo's Center for Multisource Information Fusion.

"Responders immediately begin knitting together a picture that makes sense of what is happening based on the flow of reports they receive from the field," said Peter Scott, Ph.D., associate professor of computer science and engineering in the UB School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and principal investigator on the project.

"Our goal is to take the typically chaotic flow of reports of variable quality and heterogeneous origin received from the field in the period immediately after the disaster and transform it into useful information for decision-makers and emergency responders to act upon," he said.

The system is undergoing beta testing, Scott said, and should be completed and available for use within one year. The project, funded with a $2.5 million grant from the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, consists of theoretical research on information fusion coupled with design of a large-scale simulation of a disaster modeled after the 1994 Northridge earthquake in California.

The goal is to produce response-system design guidelines, applicable to both natural disasters, such as earthquakes, tsunamis and wildfires, and to manmade incidents, such as chemical accidents and terrorist attacks, and test them in the simulated-disaster environment.

The software Scott and his colleagues are developing is driven by data collected by the Federal Emergency Management Administration during the Northridge earthquake and similar earthquakes regarding characteristics of that disaster, such as building and roadway damage, and how they correlated to casualties.
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Contact: Ellen Goldbaum
goldbaum@buffalo.edu
716-645-5000 x1415
University at Buffalo
12-Jan-2005


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