NEWS | Feb. 16, 2017

NRL's CT-Analyst Supports Presidential Inauguration

By Jonathan Sunderman

The U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) supported the 2017 Presidential Inauguration with CT-Analyst, software developed by researchers in the Laboratories for Computational Physics and Fluid Dynamics.

CT-Analyst software provides first-responders with the capability to produce fast and accurate hazard area predictions for the intentional or accidental release of airborne Chemical, Biological and Radiological (CBR) agents in urban settings.

The software’s basic operation involves placing a source, a potential contaminant of unknown type and origin, and enabling its footprint, which defines the hazard area. Based on the wind condition, CT-Analyst will display a highlighted area to indicate all areas downwind from the source that could possibly be affected.

“Our tool doesn’t just isolate the hazard zone it provides a worst-case scenario,” said Adam Moses, a computer scientist at NRL. “Because in a real-life, real-time scenario you are not worried about precise plume coverage down to the inches, you want to know roughly where is and isn’t safe to deploy resources and where to begin looking for victims.”

Moses says that when compared to other plume modeling applications the CT-Analyst software doesn’t require a full recalculation and a new result can be produced just as quickly when the input conditions are changed. Another key difference is its ease of use — the CT-Analyst software can be given to a first responder and learned in a matter of 10-20 minutes as opposed to most other CBR modeling software, which often requires extensive training.

“We actually model in its entirety all the buildings from ground to height… the initial calculation is based on a full 3-D model, and then reduced into complexity to a generalized wind field table, and this is actually a really big deal (referring to its ability to drag the plume prediction in real-time instead of delayed response) and really only our tool can do it. Most of the other tools can model the similar things but the problem is that they need all this information and then they would start the model which may take ten minutes or even an hour or more depending on the complexity. Our results are available in milliseconds.”

Moses goes on to explain that what they do is pre-compute the wind field using the urban geometry, the terrain, and the water, computing for a week on a supercomputer, and then create a simplified model with all the different scenarios for a given area.

“So that when it comes down to using this tool we’ve distilled every case into this much smaller database and then we just do lookups. So, when can just drag the location of the source from one spot on the map to another and in real-time it makes adjustments whereas other software this type of might take minutes or hours.”

This year’s Presidential Inauguration, as in previous years, concluded without any actual CBR threats. Moses and the rest of the CT-Analyst team were able to run their software and provide real-time feedback to the Inauguration emergency command. As reports of suspicious packages or unattended bags came in the CT-Analyst team rapidly produced reports, providing decision-makers instant access to “what-if” scenarios based on only a little bit of information.

“It’s reassuring to know the team was available as a resource if needed,” said Capt. Thomas Chenworth, of the Wash., DC Fire and EMS Department, Hazardous Materials Unit. “I look forward to training on and utilizing the CT-Analyst software in the coming months for our daily responses within the city and region.”

NRL’s CT-Analyst software was also just used in support of Super Bowl LI in Houston.