Academic journal article Environmental Health Perspectives

Door of Perception: NIEHS Portal Shows Way to Better Disaster Response

Academic journal article Environmental Health Perspectives

Door of Perception: NIEHS Portal Shows Way to Better Disaster Response

Article excerpt

Hurricane Katrina--which killed 1,300 people, disrupted the lives of 650,000, and produced an estimated $125 billion in recovery and reconstruction costs--brought the need for better disaster response into sharp focus. In this issue, researchers introduce the NIEHS Portal, a state-of-the-art web-based system to improve decision making during disaster response [EHP 115:564-571; Pezzoli et al.].

The portal was designed to fulfill three objectives: to monitor disaster-related human and environmental health impacts; to assess and reduce pollutant exposures caused by disasters; and to develop science-based recovery strategies. The portal does this by combining geographically referenced data on roads, power plants, contaminant release sources, flood measures, and local demography in a cyber-infrastructure called "Telescience," which was developed at the University of California, San Diego. This cyberinfrastructure lets users share computer power and storage over the Internet.

A user-friendly interface provides access to project-relevant databases and data integration tools. High-speed network connections allow researchers to use supercomputing facilities and massive data storage sites as if they were on their desktop. A geographic information system (GIS) manages the data, and an accessible interface allows users to contribute new information and participate in online discussions and collaborative workspaces. …

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