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  5. Minisode 10: Providing the Best Information to Save Lives

Providing the Best Information to Save Lives

TechSpeak The Bonus S&T Podcast

In this Tech Speak mini episode, Dr. Sarah Bereznicki from S&T’s Chemical Security Analysis Center (CSAC) discusses how the lab worked to secure both indoor and outdoor events during the week leading up to Super Bowl LVII. Listen as Dr. Bereznicki explains how her team used a predictive modeling tool to secure the event, walks through how the tool was developed, and discusses her team’s future plans. Dr. Bereznicki also runs through CSAC’s playbook and addresses a common assumption. 

Run time: 06:58
Release Date: March 29, 2023

Show Notes

Guest: Dr. Sarah Bereznicki, Chemical Security Analysis Center

[00:00:00] Sarah: Not everybody is aware that Super Bowl is not just the event in the arena. It ends up becoming a culmination of events in that city over a week period. And so, when we showed them that we've done multiple events and multiple types of scenarios, they seemed very excited about that. And so, that's how we kind of got wrapped into, not just the event at the arena itself, outdoor events throughout the week leading up to Super Bowl.

[00:00:23] Dave: Welcome to Tech Speak, a mini episode of the Technologically Speaking Podcast. I'm Dave, sound editor for S&T. You just heard Dr. Sarah Bereznicki from S&T’s Chemical Security Analysis Center or CSAC talk a little bit about how the lab worked to secure both indoor and outdoor events before and during the big game. Now let's toss the ball back to her to discuss how her team used predictive modeling to secure the Super Bowl LVII experience, as well as arena staff, players and fans.

[00:00:52] Sarah: We have several capabilities at CSAC to do both indoor and outdoor modeling. And so, we were able to model different arenas. There was, not just the Super Bowl arena, but there was also an event going on in a nearby basketball arena. And so, we were able to model indoor capabilities for both of those locations. We also did outdoor modeling with a hazard prediction tool that allows us to consider different types of releases. Actually, even the indoor models do that. They're a little more limited than the outdoor models, just because indoor modeling takes a lot more work to build an indoor model. But we essentially were able to model different types of releases, different types of chemicals. It wasn't just in Glendale. There was some events going on in Scottsdale and downtown Phoenix as well. And so, we did modeling for an urban area. We did modeling for more of a metropolitan area, but at the end of the day, it really comes down to what the customer needs are based on the different events. This is about giving them the best information they can have to secure the event so nothing happens, but also have the medical mitigations they need ready to go on site in the event something does happen. And so, it's all about giving them the best information they can have to save lives if something were to happen.

[00:02:07] Dave: Modeling is indeed an important tool that allows agencies to call several play options before a major event so they can run defense and be prepared for any potential threats. Here, Dr. Bereznicki explains how the tool was developed.

[00:02:21] Sarah: So, the indoor model, we use a tool that was developed here within DHS, across a couple different partnering organizations, and that really gives us the ability to, it, it does behind the scenes or under the hood, if you will, it actually runs several different, modeling simulation. So, you may tell it you want a specific type of event or a specific type of material. But it will run, each scenario with tweaking a parameter here or a parameter there by just a little bit. It's what we call ensembling. And so, by doing that, it'll do hundreds to thousands of runs really quickly and then give you a range of across those different scenarios. Here's how much concentration wise, here's how much dosage wise, here's how many people we feel are impacted. And you kind of get a range of results to scale to. Outdoor modeling is little different. We don't do an ensemble running. We use a prediction tool, hazard prediction tool that is, historically been created by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, and that gives us the ability to kind of zoom in on the scenario a little bit. You can actually go into detail all the way down to chemical properties as well as, meteorological conditions that are very fine scale. You can bring the resolution of the model itself spatially down to like a meter. And so that is very high resolution for outdoor modeling. And in doing that, we don't want to run as many runs as the indoor tool and get like an ensemble range of results because it would just take forever to run. So, we do have some really great specialty experience on our team to be able to run a tool like that. And that gives us the ability to kind of select, more specific scenarios than the indoor tool. We can very much tailor our outdoor results to a very specific material, a very specific type of release mechanism. Anything from a car blowing up on the side of the road to somebody actually releasing something, standing in a crowd. Those are the types of tools we use and had available for this.

[00:04:18] Dave: You may be wondering if S&T attends Super Bowl events and responds to incidents in real time. Listen as Dr. Bereznicki runs through the CSAC playbook and addresses a common assumption.

[00:04:29] Sarah: A lot of times we do get people asking, you know, did we actually respond during the Super Bowl? And the answer is no. And there's a very specific reason why. The type of modeling that we've done at S&T is designed to help inform and prepare. We've also done tabletop exercises even within DHS itself, where we come up with a scenario, model it and give it to tabletop exercise planners so that they can have a realistic scenario and kind of have like an answer key to the scenario behind the scenes. And so, the modeling we do is more for preparedness prediction than it is what we call reachback response, actively standing by in the event of something happening to model in real time.

[00:05:11] Dave: So, what's next after supporting Super Bowl LVII. Now we'll hear Dr. Bereznicki, speak a bit about the team's future plans.

[00:05:19] Sarah: So, we have modeled parades and concerts and different sporting events both indoors and outdoors. Events that are in a major auditorium or convention center versus an arena. Those sorts of details do matter when you get into modeling because how the building is structured changes how airflow moves. Same thing for outdoor events. An event that's based along a city street that's very, like New York City's very tall buildings versus something in like Oklahoma City would behave very differently in terms of the airflow through the city. So, we've done very specific analyses regarding events at different locations. Location matters very much so when you're modeling, especially outdoors. But there are scenarios that we've taken that we've done in the past that kind of become like the building blocks for a new event or become lessons learned when we react to another event like we did for Super Bowl. So, we definitely came into the Super Bowl modeling with lessons learned and, and ways of modeling in mind from the previous RFIs we've done. And in the future moving forward, we'll definitely have some key takeaways from how we did things for the Super Bowl team and their, their concerns, you know, their materials, they were concerned about the types of events that we modeled.

[00:06:41] Dave: Next time I'm at a public event, I'll feel secure knowing that our team here at S&T is focused on making these events safe for the public. Thanks for listening, and be sure to follow us at DHS Scitech. D H S, S C I T E C H. Bye.

Last Updated: 04/01/2024
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