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UT Arlington Research Experiences for Teachers in Engineering

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Research Experiences for Teachers in Hazard Mitigation

Air Dispersion Modeling: Planning for Airborne Terrorism Releases in DFW

air dispersionFaculty Mentors: Melanie Sattler, Yvette Weatherton

Graduate Assistants: Sulak Sumitsawan, Benjamin Afotey

Hazard Type:
Air Pollution Dispersion

2010 Teacher Participants
Jennifer Cook
Robert Wright

2009 Teacher Participants
Brooke Johnson
Celeste Mullis

2008 Teacher Participants
Joel Hernandez
Brooke Johnson

Potential terrorist attacks pose a significant national concern. Attacks could involve dispersing toxic gases or bioterrorism agents (e.g., bacteria that cause plague) through the air (Blewett 2004, Carley et al, 2003, Cowley at el, 2001). Dispersion modeling is widely used to predict air pollutant concentrations due to utilities, factories, and other sources (Heinold and Smith 2003, Stipp 2001). It can also be used to predict how far toxic gases or bioterrorism agents will travel from a release point, and what ambient concentrations will be. Thus, the number of people exposed to potentially dangerous levels can be determined, and areas that need to be evacuated can be identified. Examples of scenarios where dispersion modeling would be useful for planning responses include:

  1. Release of biological terrorism agents from a truck, train, or building;
  2. Release or spill of toxic chemicals from manufacturing, storage, or end-use facilities, or during transportation (e.g., from a truck or train);
  3. Release of chlorine gas from a water or wastewater treatment facility.

The objective of this research is to use dispersion modeling to predict concentrations of airborne toxics (biological or chemical agents) following a potential terrorist attack, using the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex as a case study. Various terrorist scenarios, such as those mentioned above, will be evaluated. By exporting dispersion modeling results into Geographic Information System software, numbers of persons exposed and critical evacuation areas will be determined for each scenario.

Each participating teacher will receive a dispersion modeling software license to take back to use at his/her school. Faculty members expect to present project results at a national conference and publish the results in a peer-reviewed journal.