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September 10, 2012

Purdue apps aiding law enforcement, public safety agencies

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Public safety and homeland security agencies are adopting tools developed by a Purdue-led center to help officials manage emergency response and allocate resources efficiently, sometimes using smart phones or other portable electronic devices.

The U.S. Coast Guard has used one of the tools to see how hypothetical station closures around the Great Lakes would impact response time, public safety and property loss while highlighting which regions would be exposed to greater risk. The system, which has now been adopted nationwide by the agency, allows for a thorough assessment of search-and-rescue operations at each Coast Guard station, said David Ebert, Purdue's Silicon Valley Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering and director of the Purdue-led center Visual Analytics for Command, Control and Interoperability Environments, or VACCINE.

Another tool, called MERGE, for Mobile Emergency Response Guidebook, is being tested by the U.S. Transportation Security Administration to evaluate potential hazardous materials dangers on trains. Using the MERGE system, the user shoots a picture of hazardous materials placards or signs that are displayed on vehicles or buildings. The system then identifies the hazardous materials present based on the images and displays the appropriate response protocol and evacuation perimeters.

Federal, regional and state officials will meet during an annual VACCINE conference on Sept. 20 at Purdue to discuss subjects including the VACCINE-developed tools, maritime safety,  public safety, social media, security checkpoints and the high volume of traffic passing through airport terminals.

 A keynote talk will be given by Vice Admiral Robert C. Parker, commander of the U.S. Coast Guard Atlantic Area. VACCINE is a U.S. Department of Homeland Security Center of Excellence, and Parker will talk about the value of the centers of excellence and how they can help the Coast Guard and first responders face challenges in today's data-driven society.

The conference, 8:30 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. in Lawson Hall, Room 1142, will draw participants from the Coast Guard, TSA, Purdue, the Indianapolis Police Department, and homeland security and public safety agencies from Indiana, Ohio and North Carolina. The meeting is open to the public and is free, with registration from 8 a.m. to 8:30 a.m.

An official from the Indianapolis Police Department will talk about the agency's use of a VACCINE-developed application that allows officers to use cell phones and other portable devices to translate the meaning of gang graffiti. GARI, for Gang Graffiti Automatic Recognition and Interpretation, and MERGE use "lightweight algorithms" that operate quickly, have low-energy consumption and require low memory.

The meeting will include speakers and panelists addressing topics such as the use of visual analytics and technology in public safety and other specialized areas. Representatives from VACCINE partner institutions will share information on specific research projects taking place within their organizations during the past year.

"We will also feature demonstrations of tools and technologies developed by VACCINE and a poster session of research projects being conducted by current graduate students in our Homeland Security Career Development Program," Ebert said.

More information about the VACCINE Annual Meeting is available by contacting Deb Denno at  ddenno@purdue.edu.

VACCINE is funded by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Science & Technology Directorate.

Writer: Emil Venere, 765-494-4709, venere@purdue.edu

Source: David Ebert, 494-9064, ebertd@purdue.edu