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New Orleans FD integrated harbor security program selected by DHS to participate in Chemical Defense Demonstration projects at Port of New Orleans

According to the American Association of Port Authorities, the Lower Mississippi River, where the Port of New Orleans is located, provides transportation for over 45% of all energy resources and more than 60% of all U.S. commerce. Chemical releases from either accidents or intentional acts of terrorism at the Port of New Orleans affect the public health of both area residents and passengers on cruise ships that dock at the port, and interrupt the transportation of maritime commerce, not only in New Orleans, but also throughout the Mississippi River and overseas.

The process design for New Orleans Fire Department (NOFD) integrated harbor security program for the Port of New Orleans was selected by the DHS Office of Health Affairs Chemical Defense Program on March 19 as one of four programs to participate in DHS-funded Chemical Defense Demonstration security projects.

Participation in the DHS project will optimize NOFD emergency response and “concept of operations” (CONOPS) for the Port of New Orleans, and provide the design for an integrated harbor security program for the port, using an emergency response “Tool Box” containing advanced chemical sensors and GIS-based consequence management software, incorporated into current New Orleans emergency response protocol and equipment.

The Mariner Group’s CommandBridge software, currently used by the port, will integrate chemical sensors with video surveillance cameras and radiation sensors currently used by the port and other chemical sensors now used in New Orleans. This will provide situational awareness of HazMat emergencies at the Port of New Orleans and will provide interoperable communications to New Orleans area emergency responders using the NOFD “Tool Box.

NOFD is evaluating chemical sensors that use Differential Mobility Spectrometry (DMS) technology, developed by organizations including Draper Laboratories, the former instrument laboratory for MIT. DMS is currently used in the portable JUNO chemical detector developed by Chemring Detection Systems (CDS), part of Chemring Sensors and Electronic Systems (CSES). DMS acts as a tunable ion sensor to simultaneously separate, detect and measure individual chemicals in complex mixtures in the field that can contain CWAs, TICs, and interferents.

DMS will enhance chemical security at the Port of New Orleans in the NOFD integrated harbor security program. NOFD is also evaluating advanced GIS-based consequence management software developed by Safer Systems to provide real-time graphical information at the port, and includes both plume dispersion modeling and the location of chemical releases.

Each day the Mississippi River is closed to the transportation of maritime commerce costs the U.S. economy over $275 million per day. The 11-day interruption of the transportation of maritime commerce in 2008 on the Mississippi River caused by a diesel lead caused a loss of over $3 billion to the U.S. economy and $6 billion to international commerce when a barge and a tanker collided on the Mississippi River at the Port of New Orleans, releasing 419,000 gallons of diesel and shutting down the river.

Therefore integrated chemical security that protects the transportation of maritime commerce on the Mississippi River at the Port of New Orleans by NOFD will protect local public health, but also mitigates the interruption of domestic and international commerce, which could, and already has had devastating consequences both to domestic and international economies.

Editors Note: This material was abstracted from an article by George Lane, chemical security analyst at the New Orleans Fire Department. The New Orleans Fire Department’s entry, also written by Mr. Lane, was winner in the category of Best Integrated Harbor Security Program in the GSN 2014 Airport, Seaport, Border Security Awards Program.


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