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Online technology for tracking disease outbreaks earns 2010 Science & Technology Impact Award from Department of Homeland Security

WASHINGTON, D.C. – An online “information dashboard” that can significantly improve the nation’s response to a major disease outbreak has earned the 2010 Science & Technology Impact Award from the Department of Homeland Security.

Specifically, the award honors the National Center for Foreign Animal and Zoonotic Disease Defense (FAZD) for rapidly deploying the technology – known as the Bio-surveillance Common Operating Picture (BCOP) – for DHS during the global H1N1 flu pandemic of 2009. FAZD Center researchers built, tested and launched the BCOP in weeks rather than months as originally scheduled.

The FAZD Center developed the BCOP to enhance the work of the DHS National Bio-surveillance Integration Center (NBIC). The BCOP enables DHS and NBIC to track, organize and share information about outbreaks of contagious diseases from around the world on a daily basis. This allows DHS to more rapidly prepare its response to outbreaks that may threaten the United States.

Headquartered at Texas A&M University, the FAZD Center is a DHS Center of Excellence representing seven major universities, 10 Minority Serving Institutions and five National Laboratories.

The 2010 Impact Award recognizes the work of FAZD Center principal investigators James A. Wall and John T. Hoffman, and investigator Keith Biggers. The award also recognizes former FAZD Center Director Neville P. Clarke’s contributions to the development of the BCOP.

Planning is underway to increase access within NBIC to 20,000 BCOP users.  Other government agencies and commercial customers have asked the FAZD Center about developing specific dashboards for their needs.

The BCOP uses information dashboard technology to provide decision makers with real-time access to multiple websites, live data feeds, news feeds, streaming video, maps, images, key documents, information banks and other information resources.

“This versatile technology offers many applications to enhance many areas of homeland security, including human health, animal health, national defense and emergency management,” said Tammy Beckham, the FAZD Center’s interim director. “Information dashboards like the BCOP allow for a faster, more effective response to a crisis or disaster at all levels: local, state and federal.”

In addition to serving as a command and control system during crisis and disasters, information dashboards from the FAZD Center can also function as training simulators, Beckham said.

“Our information dashboards can create ‘virtual veterans’ of large-scale disasters,” she said.

To learn more about the FAZD Center’s information dashboard technology, visit: http://fazd.tamu.edu/publications/FAZD%20dahsboard.pdf .

About the FAZD Center researchers

  • James A. Wall is deputy director of the Texas Center for Applied Technology, Texas Engineering Experiment Station, Texas A&M University System.
  • John T. Hoffman is a senior research fellow at the FAZD Center and  the DHS National Center for Food Protection and Defense (University of Minnesota).
  • Keith E. Biggers is a researcher with the Texas Center for Applied Technology, Texas Engineering Experiment Station, Texas A&M University System.
  • Neville P. Clarke is former director of the Department of Homeland Security National Center of Excellence on Foreign Animal and Zoonotic Disease Defense. He has been actively involved in agricultural biosecurity since 1996.
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