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July 3, 2003

Supercomputer simulation tests measured response to bioterror incident

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Officials from federal, state and local agencies will join Purdue University faculty in a computer simulation on Tuesday and Wednesday (7/8-9) to test what responses work best in an unfolding bioterror crisis.

The mock scenario is a death, possibly due to smallpox introduced by a bioterrorist, during an international summer music festival. Because many of the festival attendees have traveled from other areas, an infectious disease could be carried to other parts of the country and internationally when the attendees return home.

"We are looking at the simulation to help increase the level of preparedness in homeland security," said Shailendra Mehta (sha-Lin-dra May-ta), visiting associate professor of management and co-director of the Purdue e-business Research Center (PERC) at the Krannert School of Management. "We'll set up teams from local, state and national agencies, such as the FBI, CIA and the Indiana Office of Homeland Security, to respond to the potential crisis through a very sophisticated computer simulation."

Two simulations will take place on Wednesday (7/9) from 9:30-11:30 a.m. and from 1-2:30 p.m. in Purdue's Stewart Center, Rooms 202-206. Immediately following each of the simulations will be a half hour after-action review session. On Tuesday (7/8), two panels will discuss homeland security issues.

Mehta said the goal is to increase understanding of how public officials should respond in the event of a bioterror incident.

"We want to see what is the most effective way to deal with a bioterrorist threat, how officials can most effectively allocate their resources and time their moves," he said.

Alok Chaturvedi (a-LOK CHA-tur-vedi), PERC director and associate professor of management at the Krannert School, said the event will have about 70 participants –35 from Purdue and 35 from local, state and federal agencies. Among those scheduled to participate in the simulation is Brig. Gen. Steve Reeves, program executive officer for chemical and biological defense for the U.S. Department of Defense. His responsibilities include the research, development and acquisition of all chemical and biological defense equipment and medical countermeasures for U.S. armed services.

Agencies and companies that are sending representatives to the simulation include the National Science Foundation, the Joint Forces Command, U.S. Army, Department of Justice, General Motors Corp., IBM, Hewlett-Packard, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Indiana State Department of Health, Indiana Department of Transportation, Red Cross, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and local police and fire departments.

Each of the team participants will be equipped with hand-held wireless computers linked to at least three supercomputers at Purdue and Indiana universities. The supercomputers will be connected through the state's I-Light network, the high-performance, optical-fiber network that links the campuses of Indiana University, Purdue University and Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis.

Linking up the supercomputers makes it possible to simulate in all their complexity the factors involved in the scenario – the spread of a potentially infectious biological hazard, public panic and economic disruptions.

The computer-simulation technology, developed at Purdue and called Synthetic Environment for Analysis and Simulation, has been used in U.S. Department of Defense exercises and market-simulation competitions for Krannert School MBA students.

Sponsoring the event are the National Science Foundation, Information Technology at Purdue and PERC, which has been supported by the 21st Century Indiana Research & Technology Fund.

PERC is an interdisciplinary research group at the Krannert School made up of Indiana research universities, corporations, industry associations and public sector institutions. It is funded by grants from Indiana's 21st Century Research and Technology Fund, the National Science Foundation and the E-Enterprises Center in Purdue's Discovery Park.

Writer: J.M. Lillich, (765) 494-2077,

Sources: Shailendra Mehta, (765) 494-5703,

Alok Chaturvedi, (765) 494-9048,

Related Web site:

Measured Response 2003 home page:

Related information:

O'Bannon sparks I-Light, a high-tech link for Indiana's universities:

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096;

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