Aid Missions Get Cutting-Edge Assistance from ONR

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For Immediate Release: Feb. 9, 2012

By Katherine H. Crawford, Office of Naval Research

ARLINGTON, Va.—A Web-based tool suite that helps first responders rapidly coordinate resources during disasters, co-sponsored by the Office of Naval Research (ONR), is being introduced at a University of Connecticut panel Feb. 8-11 as part of a month-long rollout.

The U.S. Navy and Marine Corps are first responders to international crises, which often include humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HA/DR), such as Japan’s March 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster and Haiti’s January 2010 earthquake.

The Resiliency Assessment and Coordination System (TRACS) tool takes data from the United Nations’ ReliefWeb and Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and displays it on a map-based diagram showing the locations of various resources, such as food, shelter, sanitation and health supplies. It also provides a checklist to help first responders with initial planning, as well as a medical “common operating picture” for all critical players in HA/DR operations—a big-picture view of relevant assets.

“The idea is to provide rapid information on a nation’s resiliency to a particular disaster,” said Dr. Rebecca Goolsby, a program officer in ONR’s Warfighter Performance and Protection department. “By having information about the whole system—health, food, economics, transportation, etc.—the first responders will know how to prepare and what to bring.”

TRACS is being developed through a partnership between ONR and the Center of Excellence in Disaster Management & Humanitarian Assistance (COE-DMHA) to satisfy U.S. combatant command and military component requirements for HA/DR, including rapid HA/DR diagnosis, planning, coordination and operational assessment. ONR and COE-DMHA hope to transition the TRACS technology into wider use at the United States Pacific Command.

COE-DMHA is led by its director, retired Marine Corps Lt. Gen. John Goodman, and retired Navy Rear Adm. Thomas Cullison, formerly Navy deputy surgeon general and vice chief, Bureau of Medicine and Surgery. The center aids military and non-military international disaster management and humanitarian assistance, and it partners with various national and international governmental and non-governmental organizations to provide education, training, coordination and research.

TRACS is able to digest a vast amount of information—social media, images, analytics, etc.—being broadcast from the crisis and display it in various formats to provide users with a dashboard-like “at a glance” view of all the functional status of numerous assets, such as public health and water systems. A chart displays the items in green (good), yellow (fair) and red (needs help).

Future iterations will show what needs to be fixed and in what order to turn a “red” item to “green.” Also planned is inclusion of a suite of social media analysis tools in development by ONR, which will reduce the initial footprint of first responders by allowing them to arrive with only the items that are actually needed for a particular event and location.

One ONR objective is for TRACS to become a key HA/DR widget, or application, that is accessible on Navy command and control networks. It will run on ONR’s Command and Control Rapid Prototyping Capability (C2RPC), which pulls together large amounts of data from disparate sources, sifts it for relevancy and validates it, helping decision makers get information quickly and coordinate with partners.

“A lot of times when we use naval forces to perform humanitarian assistance to areas that have just experienced some type of disaster, we spend a lot of time and resources just communicating what is needed and when it’s needed,” said Gary Toth, who spearheaded C2RPC as ONR’s program manager for Command and Control. “C2RPC offers visibility into where we have available resources—whether it’s blood supplies, fresh water, diapers or food—and it minimizes the amount of time spent in information gathering and coordination. As a result, you spend that time actually making decisions and executing a variety of mission outcomes.”

C2RPC operates on a cloud computing framework, named “OZONE,” so various applications can interact. OZONE is a standards-based widget technology that enables information sharing from unclassified to classified platforms—essentially, feeding information from the ground up. C2RPC can flow information from new knowledge sources, models and visualization technologies and to improve information sharing with potential partners, such as the United States Agency for International Development, host nations, non-governmental organizations, allied nations and local authorities. The idea is to create standards-based widgets with rules to foster global coordination and collaboration while retaining information that is sensitive or classified.

About the Office of Naval Research

The Department of the Navy’s Office of Naval Research (ONR) provides the science and technology necessary to maintain the Navy and Marine Corps’ technological advantage. Through its affiliates, ONR is a leader in science and technology with engagement in 50 states, 30 countries, 1,035 institutions of higher learning and more than 900 industry partners. ONR employs approximately 1,065 people, comprising uniformed, civilian and contract personnel, with additional employees at the Naval Research Lab in Washington, D.C.

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Office of Naval Research
Corporate Strategic Communications
875 N. Randolph St., #1224
Arlington, Va. 22203-1771
Office: (703) 696-5031
Fax: (703) 696-5940
Email: onrcsc@onr.navy.mil
Web: www.onr.navy.mil
Facebook: www.facebook.com/officeofnavalresearch

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