Sandia LabNews

Sandia/LANL researchers quietly aided DHS in 2007 Minneapolis bridge disaster

When catastrophe occurs, government decision makers need immediate information on the scope of damage to determine the proper remedies.

After the Minneapolis bridge disaster of Aug. 1, 2007, damage mitigation decisions were made easier for the Department of Homeland Security by the work of NISAC — the National Infrastructure Simulation and Analysis Center.

NISAC researchers from Sandia and Los Alamos national labs provided information within a day to help DHS decision makers put in perspective the economic and security consequences of the tragic event.

“NISAC staff creates computer models and perform analyses using data from public and other sources,” says NISAC technical lead Theresa Brown (6321). “In this case, we used publicly available data on traffic flows and commodity transport in the area of the collapsed bridge.”

While studies from NISAC are provided to some policy makers on a regular basis, others studies — like the one on the failed bridge — are tied to the immediate impacts of a one-time event.

The NISAC study found that disruptions to key societal components were likely to be minimal. These included emergency transport to hospitals, food and oil flow, and educational sites.

NISAC is composed of approximately 90 scientists, who participate on a part-time basis from Sandia and Los Alamos national laboratories and from DHS.

NISAC studies are distributed through the National Incident Command Center to response and recovery groups.