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SensorNet prototype system in boot camp at Fort Bragg


Fort Bragg could be the model for the nation when it comes to protecting the public through a network that integrates a 911 dispatch system with sensors, alarms and video surveillance.

Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s SensorNet, a collection of systems for the detection, identification and assessment of chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear threats, has been installed as part of a project with the Fort Bragg Directorate of Emergency Services. The military base, located in North Carolina, is home to more than 30,000 family members and contains 11 shopping centers, 28 restaurants, a major medical center, 11 churches and 183 recreational facilities.

"Fort Bragg is a city with thousands of residents, more than 20 million square feet of office buildings and all of the associated needs and demands placed on emergency services workers," said Bryan Gorman, a researcher in the Department of Energy laboratory’s Computational Sciences and Engineering Division. "The beauty of SensorNet is that, unlike conventional public safety mass notification networks, it provides plug-and-play sensors and applications invisible to the users."

The end product is a system of sensors that could save lives in the event of a chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear attack. SensorNet requires no complicated computer programming and sends information in real time to command centers or emergency responder dispatchers. The system also incorporates actual meteorological conditions to produce predictions of health effects on the ambient population. Where ease of operation is concerned, Gorman compares SensorNet to the global Internet or phone system.

"Any sensor can talk to any application," Gorman said. "Just like with the Internet or with telephone systems, it doesn’t matter what kind of computer or telephone you have, where you are or what application you’re running. The system just works."

One of the main objectives at Fort Bragg will be to assess and evaluate chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear sensors along with meteorological sensors, intrusion detectors and access control technologies. The access control units are intended to protect military bases and other installations. Ultimately, sensors that emerge as the best in class will be incorporated in SensorNet installations around the country.

The work at Fort Bragg addresses a public safety initiative to consolidate its 911 dispatch system and to integrate all of the base’s sensor, alarm and video surveillance systems. With the SensorNet system in place, a dispatcher can provide first responders with better information that could ultimately save lives.

Another key component of the Fort Bragg project is to define standards for the Department of Defense’s "Net-Centric" strategy.

"’Network Centricity’ is the new Department of Defense vision for managing the department’s data," Gorman said. "In a ’net-centric’ environment, data is visible, accessible, understandable and trusted when needed and where needed to speed decision making."

The assessments are being conducted within the Bragg Experimental SensorNet Testbed, which is modeled after the Joint Forces Command’s Project Alpha. The project, funded by the Department of Defense, is scheduled to last five years.

Oak Ridge National Laboratory is managed by UT-Battelle for the Department of Energy.

Ron Walli | EurekAlert!
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