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Homeland Security

Risk Assessment Systems

Emergency Consequence Assessment Tool (ECAT)

The Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) National Homeland Security Research Center (NHSRC) is responsible for developing risk-related information as well as risk assessment and communication systems and tools. As part of this responsibility, EPA is developing the Emergency Consequence Assessment Tool (ECAT), which enhances the ability of risk managers to respond to potential terrorist attacks more quickly and efficiently. The ECAT includes a library of key risk assessment and consequence management information and an interactive calculator for site-specific applications.

The ECAT functions as a "defensive playbook" that allows risk managers to prepare for emergency responses, using information developed from a series of priority threat scenarios. It combines the decision-making processes of the emergency response paradigm and the risk assessment paradigm into a tool that provides for rapid communication and informed risk management of chemical and biological warfare agents. The pilot program, Version 1.0, includes two scenarios that offer users the ability to enter a contaminant characteristic (e.g., white powder found in an office) and receive rapid and accurate information needed to respond to the hazard identified. The ECAT offers users a one-stop source for risk-related information. It provides results to user queries rapidly and in a manner suitable for immediate use at the cleanup site. This ability to provide results in the field facilitates real-time risk communication and allows response activities to continue rapidly.

The capabilities of the ECAT include:

  • Quantification of chemical hazards and biological risks
  • Support to emergency responders by providing health-based information and recommendations for personal protective equipment (PPE),
  • standard operating procedures (SOPs), site controls, and decontamination procedures
  • Support to risk managers by providing target cleanup levels and techniques for clearance sampling, remediation, and restoration

Traditional tools provide only chronic exposure information and users must scroll through large volumes of information to find the needed risk-related information. The ECAT uses a secure EPA Web site server that gives authorized users immediate access to assistance. The ECAT also provides computer links to decontamination methods; risk mitigation methods; and information related to toxic agents, site controls, and PPE.

The ECAT operates through user-input queries, providing step-by-step guidance for the management of risks and information that is specific to the contaminant. Contaminant-specific information includes recommendations for evacuation planning, sample planning, treatment, decontamination, cleanup, confirmatory sampling, and disposal options. The ECAT also provides hyperlinks to other EPA databases and models, including Computer-Aided Management for Emergency Operations (CAMEO), the Water Contaminant Information Tool (WCIT), and the EPANET water distribution system model.

ECAT users include emergency planners and trainers, emergency responders, risk assessors, and on-site coordinators.

Risk characterization information provided by the ECAT includes one-page Tech Briefs or templates used to communicate risk-related conclusions to the public. These Tech Briefs also provide information on preventive or emergency response measures for the contaminant agent, contaminant characteristics, exposure routes, symptoms and signs of exposure, response-related PPE, and sampling methodologies.

Version 1.0 was beta tested with EPA personnel, including on-scene coordinators. It can be scaled up to Version 2.0 without significant reprogramming. Version 2.0 will include ten threat scenarios and is now available for beta testing.

ECAT users include emergency planners and trainers, emergency responders, risk assessors, and on-site coordinators.

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Page last modified: 13-07-2011 12:51:29 ZULU