Machine Design

Software Broom for HazMat crews

A software tool called Broom (Building Restoration Operations Optimization Model) from researchers at Sandia National Laboratories helps HazMat crews streamline the process of collecting samples following attacks by biological warfare agents.

A handheld electronic device runs the Broom software, a bar-code scanner, and a laser-range finder for the identification and accurate locating of collected samples.

The scanner reads bar codes placed on sample vials. Information such as the sample type, surface type, surface orientation, surface area, and surface texture are also recorded for each sample. All data then wirelessly transfer to a PC sitting outside the contaminated zone. The results are displayed on a map on both the handheld device and the PC.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recently tested Broom at Sandia. Previous NIOSH projects include sampling at the Hart Senate Building and at the Brentwood and Trenton postal facilities following the 2001 anthrax attack.

The Sandia test involved the release of a harmless biological agent. NIOSH crews in full HazMat gear using the Broom tool collected and cataloged samples over a three-day period. The resulting diagram accurately mapped contamination hot spots. Overall, the exercise was a tremendous success, says the group. The three-year project pairs Sandia with Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and is sponsored by the Dept. of Homeland Security.

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