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Unique Sensor Plane Maps Invisible Toxins for First Responders

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Uploaded on May 12, 2008

A unique airborne emergency response tool, ASPECT is a Los Alamos/U.S. Environmental Protection Agency project that can put chemical and radiological mapping tools in the air over an accident scene. The name ASPECT is an acronym for Airborne Spectral Photometric Environmental Collection Technology.

Update, Sept. 19, 2008: Flying over storm-damaged refineries and chemical factories, a twin-engine plane carrying the ASPECT (Airborne Spectral Photometric Environmental Collection Technology) system has been on duty throughout the recent hurricanes that have swept the Florida and Gulf Coast areas. ASPECT is a project of the U.S. U.S. Environmental Protection Agencys National Decontamination Team. Los Alamos National Laboratory leads a science and technology program supporting the EPA and the ASPECT aircraft.

Casting about with a combination of airborne photography and infrared spectroscopy, the highly instrumented plane provides emergency responders on the ground with a clear concept of where danger lies, and the nature of the sometimes-invisible plumes that could otherwise kill them. ASPECT is the nations only 24/7 emergency response aircraft with chemical plume mapping capability.

Bob Kroutil of Bioscience Division is the project leader, and while he said the team has put in long hours, both on the ground and in the air, its a worthwhile effort. The plane flew over 320 targeted sites in four days, he noted. Prior to the deployment to the Gulf Coast, the plane had been monitoring the Democratic National Convention in Denver, Colorado.

Los Alamos National Laboratory Divisions that are supporting ASPECT include, in addition to B-Division, CTN-5: Networking Engineering and IRM-CAS: Communication, Arts, and Services. Leslie Mansell, CTN-5, and Marilyn Pruitt, IRM-CAS, were recognized the the U.S. EPA for their outstanding support to the hurricane response of Gustav in Louisiana and Ike in Texas.

The information from the data collected in the most recent event, Hurricane Ike, was sent to the EPA Region 6 Rapid Needs Assessment and the State of Texas Joint Field Office in Austin, Texas. It appears that though there is considerable damage in Galveston and Texas City, there are fewer chemical leaks than during either hurricanes Katrina or Rita. Specific information gathered from the data was reported out to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Headquarters, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Department of Homeland Security, and the State of Texas Emergency Management Agency.

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