Sandia LabNews

Sandia lends expertise, assistance during hurricane cleanup

Sandia lends expertise, assistance during hurricane cleanup

After nearly two months following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, Sandia continues to assist with the relief effort along the Gulf Coast.

A computer network to assist evacuees at the Houston Astrodome locate family members was set up by a Sandian, and a Sandia computer server was used to help map safe convoy routes during the evacuation. Sandians have also provided technical expertise in economic analyses, and Sandia continues to lead a multilab effort looking at water decontamination issues in New Orleans.

Mississippi assistance

Several Sandians spent eight days in Gulfport, Miss., in mid-October, assisting in the recovery efforts from Hurricane Katrina. The team resided at a volunteer village sponsored by Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, which was a “tent city” for as many as 150 volunteers.

The team went out to various work sites and assisted in “mucking out” flood damaged homes, placing temporary roofs on people’s homes, removing tree damage, and doing some home repairs. Sandians on the team included Jeffery Porter (5719), Julie Bouchard (6225), Susan (Trudi) Martinez (5525), Patti Valles (4311), and Dennis Johnson (2550).

Tulane support

Sandia’s Advanced Materials Laboratory and the University of New Mexico’s Department of Chemical and Nuclear Engineering are hosting Dr. Yunfeng Lu, a professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at Tulane, seven graduate students, and two postdocs. Lu, a former UNM graduate student and Sandia post-doc, has been collaborating with Jeff Brinker, a Sandia fellow, scientist, and UNM professor, on self-assembled supramolecular materials. Lu already was partially funded by a Sandia LDRD as a result of the award of a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers.

Carol Ashley, team leader in Ceramic Processing and Inorganic Materials, says Sandia and UNM are committed to assisting Lu and his students to ensure that their research continues.

Research has been conducted in three labs, including one in Sandia’s Advanced Materials Labs, and two at UNM’s Department of Chemical and Nuclear Engineering. Equipment has been loaned by various Sandia organizations and is being coordinated by Eric Branson (1815). Jeff Brinker (1002) authorized a line of credit at UNM using his UNM overhead funds to allow purchase of chemicals and supplies by the Tulane group while they awaited arrival of transferred funds from their funding agencies. The group now is receiving their funding from Tulane.

The researchers and the spouses of two graduate students now live in three separate apartments, which are supplied by a faculty member from UNM’s Department of Chemical and Nuclear Engineering, the Albuquerque Red Cross Association, and FEMA.

Eric says the entire AML staff has donated large amounts of time in assisting with the set-up of the lab, training on equipment, and ensuring a smooth transition for the Tulane researchers.

“This could not have been done without the help of a lot of people,” says Eric. “I would like to extend a thanks to all those who helped.”

Astrodome network

John Larson (4330), assisted in setting up a computer network to help evacuees in Houston Astrodome locate family members.

John says he knew he could make more of a difference professionally and personally for the victims other than by donating money. He was frustrated at progress of the Hurricane Katrina response so he started searching the Internet and calling around the country looking for ways to help. He found an article in the Houston Chronicle requesting wireless communications expertise at the Astrodome, and that same night was on a plane to Houston.

Once the network was set up at the Astrodome, John began to assist evacuees and input requests for information about missing family and friends.

John says there will be plenty of evacuee stories to remember. He recalls a young lady and her daughter who walked to the Superdome through two miles of water that sometimes was up to their chest. The two had spent two days on an overpass with many other people with no food or water before making the decision to walk to the Superdome. “She said the two nights in the Superdome were much worse than the bridge, she felt fear for her daughter and herself,” he says. She had left part of her family on that bridge, and John was helping her try to locate them.

“It’s one thing to hear these stories on CNN and read them in the paper and another thing to hear them firsthand from a human being sitting across from you and still seeing the fear and anguish on their face,” John says.

NISAC update

Analyses of infrastructure impacts due to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, done by the National Infrastructure Simulation and Analysis Center (NISAC), were completed Sept. 23. The Department of Homeland Security’s NISAC is a core partnership between Sandia and Los Alamos national laboratories.

Nancy Brodsky (6222) helped lead several Sandians in analyses of critical infrastructure, including energy, telecommunications, and other infrastructure sectors (Lab News, Sept. 16). NISAC completed 17 reports for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) including two Katrina pre-event, one Ophelia pre-event, four Rita pre-event, and 10 Katrina post-event reports. NISAC also contributed to two DOE reports.

NISAC is currently looking at scenarios around the nation with the potential for severe consequences.

“We are looking at other types of natural disasters, as well as accidents, and deliberate interventions,” Nancy said. “We focus on consequences to infrastructure for such events.”

Search and rescue

New Mexico Task Force 1 (NMTF-1) members Bruce Berry (6445), Kenneth Gwinn (1526), and Jerry Wellman (1527) participated in search and rescue operations following Katrina.

Bruce says the team went “roof to roof” assisting people in houses, apartments, schools, and businesses. During the nine days the team was there they assisted anywhere from 60 to 150 people per day.

Kenneth and Jerry were deployed as structures specialists after Hurricane Katrina. Bruce was deployed as a search team manager. Arne Gullerud (1542) was unable to deploy due to work commitments but he spent many hours pre-deployment helping the team get out the door.

Kenneth spent the majority of his time helping decontaminate rescuers and victims as they came out of the water. He spent one day in a boat performing search and rescue operations. Jerry spent the majority of his time helping with securing supplies, unpacking and packing equipment. He also spent two days in a boat performing search and rescue operations.

Bruce says the team is on call and can be deployed to assist with any emergency at any time. The team has one hour to respond with a yes or no.

“This is my commitment to my community and to the United States,” says Bruce.

NMTF-1 is one of 28 FEMA urban search and rescue (USAR) teams in the country. USAR teams were originally formed to deal with large natural disasters that overwhelm local responses in the aftermath of the Mexico City earthquake.

Sandia’s contribution to NMTF-1 is to allow its Sandia members to train and respond on their own time — typically vacation. This includes acceptance of the potential conflict-of-interest for those who perform engineering activities for both Sandia and FEMA.

Other relief activities

• David Ellis (6435) assisted with a Sandia computer server that was sent to St. Louis to help map safe convoy routes and help survivors locate each other.

• Sandia led a multilab effort to develop a decision tree for water decontamination in New Orleans. The team developed an initial decision tree and identified technical advisory groups for the potential major issues. The efforts were led by Mark Tucker (6245) and Richard Griffith (1517).

• The commercial version of the Sandia DF-200 decontamination foam is being used to clean up commercial buildings in Mississippi. It is being used both before and after water is removed from the facilities, primarily for disinfection of pathogenic microorganisms. DF-200 was also used to help clean and disinfect the New Orleans Sports Arena (the basketball and hockey arena next to the Superdome). This was where most medical cases were held while the hospitals were closed.