April 14, 2006

New Software Helps First Responders Identify Hazardous Chemicals

(RedOrbit) When first responders and hazardous materials (hazmat) teams deal with decontamination of harmful materials they must first determine what substances are present and understand the inherent risks to humans and the environment.

Researchers at the Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI) have developed software called the "Chemical Companion" to help these first responders obtain the information they need to make critical decisions.

The Chemical Companion software tool, which runs on personal digital assistants, provides detailed information on 130 of the most common chemicals associated with hazmat incidents.

"Knowing the characteristics of a chemical, such as its boiling point or density, tells us different things about how to approach the scene," said project co-director Christina Baxter, a senior research scientist in GTRI's Health and Environmental Systems Laboratory (HESL). "Suppose there's a fire. With some flammable substances, water might make the fire burn even hotter, and foam is needed to suppress the blaze."

The Chemical Companion also features a calculator to help responders determine "stay times" - how long they can remain in a contaminated zone - based on what type of protective equipment they're wearing.

The research is sponsored by the federal government's Technical Support Work Group.

By Karen Ventii of RedOrbit from Wire reports

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