Johns Hopkins Gazette | February 9, 2009
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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University February 9, 2009 | Vol. 38 No. 21
JH Offers Free Software Tool for Large-Scale Disaster Planning

Computer modeling program developed by CEPAR and APL team

By Gary Stephenson
Johns Hopkins Medicine

A team of Johns Hopkins experts is offering a free Web-based tool it developed to predict the impact on individual hospitals of a flu epidemic, bioterrorist attack, flood or plane crash, accounting for such elements as numbers of victims, germ-carrying wind patterns, available medical resources, bacterial incubation periods and bomb size.

"Biological, chemical, radiological or explosive attacks can bring hospitals and local health agencies to their knees, quickly overwhelming their ability to care for mass casualties," said Gabor Kelen, head of Emergency Medicine at Johns Hopkins and director of its Office of Critical Event Preparedness and Response, known as CEPAR. "Our software lets users put their own information into the modeling software, customize it to their needs and predict what they will need to handle a surge in casualties."

Called EMCAPS, for Electronic Mass Casualty Assessment & Planning Scenarios, the software program is believed to be the first that generates the anticipated outcomes of disaster-planning scenarios developed by the Department of Homeland Security. The scenarios include patient estimates by injury type, estimated level of care required and the need for decontamination facilities.

Developed by CEPAR and programmed by the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, EMCAPS is reported on in detail in the February edition of Annals of Emergency Medicine. The program can be downloaded from the CEPAR Web site,

James J. Scheulen, lead investigator for the EMCAPS project, said, "Comprehensive disaster preparedness planning requires the ability to expand care capabilities in response to sudden or prolonged demand." Scheulen is executive director of CEPAR and chief administrative officer of the Johns Hopkins Department of Emergency Medicine.

Meridith Thanner, a CEPAR research associate and program manager with the National Center for the Study of Preparedness and Catastrophic Event Response, said, "While the planning scenarios developed by the Department of Homeland Security form a good basis for constructing disaster exercises, EMCAPS adds value by giving hospitals a platform for providing a needed level of detail and accounting for local conditions that influence health care demand and response in their regions."

When designing EMCAPS, its developers selected eight of 15 Homeland Security scenarios that could result in large-scale health effects: anthrax inhalation; plague; food contamination; blister, nerve and toxic agents; dirty bombs; and improvised explosive device attacks. The remaining scenarios, including natural disasters and cyber attacks, were excluded because of either insufficient information for computer modeling or low casualty probability as a result of an attack.

CEPAR serves as Johns Hopkins' command center for institutionswide planning for and reaction to a disaster. The agency combines the skills of Johns Hopkins Medicine faculty and staff with the tactical planning capabilities of the Applied Physics Laboratory staff, the public health investigative skills of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and the faculty and facilities of the university's Homewood campus.

In 2005, CEPAR spearheaded the creation of the national Center for the Study of Preparedness and Catastrophic Event Response, known as PACER, to coordinate U.S. technological, medical and physical resources to ensure effective response to any disaster.


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