Edited Version August 23, 2000 Transcript
EIIP Tech Arena Online Presentation

"TranSafe: Internet Service for Transportation Emergency Response"

Joe Roberts
GeoSphere Systems Inc.

Amy Sebring - Moderator
EIIP Technical Projects Coordinator

The original unedited transcript of the August 23, 2000 online Virtual Library presentation is available in the EIIP Virtual Library Archives (http://www.emforum.org/vlibrary/livechat.htm). The following version of the transcript has been edited for easier reading and comprehension. Typos were corrected, date/time/names attributed by the software to each input were deleted but the content of questions and responses are as stated by each participant. Answers to participants’ questions are grouped beneath the appropriate question to facilitate meaning.


Amy Sebring: Welcome to the EIIP Tech Arena!

Our topic today is "TranSafe: Internet Service for Transportation Emergency Response." We are pleased to have Joe Roberts with us today to give us an overview of this new Web-based application. Joe is the Web Development Engineer for TranSafe at GeoSphere Systems. He previously worked as a web programmer for Nextel of Texas and as Technical Editor for the Encyclopedia of Louisville, Kentucky. Welcome Joe, and thank you for taking the time to be with us today.


Joe Roberts: Thank you, Amy. Thank you all for coming.

TranSafe© is an Internet tool designed to aid in mobile incidents that involve chemical spills. It combines a powerful mapping engine, accurate location data, and Department of Transportation recommendations. TranSafe© also provides users with supplemental information like weather, MSDS information and a services lookup.

TranSafe© offers some advantages over traditional stand-alone software. Because it is web-based, users of TranSafe© need only to be familiar with a standard web browser thus eliminating the need for costly training. Users can also return the same results regardless of their location. All they need is access to the Web and their regular login name.

At the beginning of a TranSafe© session users are asked to input three categories of critical information: First, the location of the incident or its approximate street address; second, the chemical information and size of the spill. TranSafe© will accept up to five different chemicals per incident. And Third the mode of transportation.


Once the critical information has been taken, TranSafe© will render a map of the area around the incident. It compares each chemical involved and draws a radius on the map that represents the official DOT Protection Action Distance (PAD) recommendation.


TranSafe© also returns to the user all of the "sensitive receptor" information within that PAD. For example, if there are eleven schools within the PAD. TranSafe© allows the user to see where each of those schools is and provides accurate contact information (phone number, address, etc.).

TranSafe© has supplemental information like local fire departments, police stations, EMS stations and rescue squads. TranSafe's© mapping engine incorporates all of the standard features of an Internet map. Users can zoom in, zoom out, pan, and get information on map features. Users can also get detailed driving directions to and from the incident site.


Chemical information on TranSafe© is provided directly from the 2000 Emergency Response Guidebook (ERG). When users enter the chemicals involved, TranSafe© compares them to derive the appropriate PAD. Furthermore, it allows user to see the actual corresponding guide page recommendation for each chemical.


TranSafe© also gives user the weather information around the incident area, the ability to do MSDS searches, and search for services in the area of the incident. Currently, there is a pre-release version of TranSafe© that is available to the public. However, an official commercial release is due out in Mid-September, 2000. This version of TranSafe© incorporates a full-service Web site along with enhanced tools.

Users will be able to purchase, update, and upgrade their accounts online and be able to form user groups where they can collaborate on incidents and share information. The new interface ensures that users get the information they most need quickly and efficiently. Incidents can be archived and chat features allow users to directly communicate with each other.


Individual locations on the map that include address and phone number have grown to over 310,000 unique points. The chemical information has also been upgraded to include over 3,700 different chemicals. Users can select chemicals by number or name.


A separate services lookup is also available in TranSafe©. Users can now draw their own expandable/collapsible radius around the incident site to lookup different chemical related services that include: Tank Cleaners, Chemical Cleanup Services, CHEMTREC CHEMNET Contractors, Safety Equipment Providers, Home centers, and HazMat removal services.


Future releases of TranSafe will include an enhanced mapping engine that will support "drop a point" and Lat/Long location methods, access to "mine" data from the government. Users will also be able to use TranSafe© with web-enabled cell phones and handheld devices. In conclusion, you can see that TranSafe© could be used by a variety of individuals in a variety of situations. From first responders to company executives to insurance agents, TranSafe© provides anyone with a "window" into the incident scene.

I would be happy to answer any questions or hear any comments you might have.

[Audience Questions & Answers]

Amy Sebring: Thank you for the preview, Joe; we can get into more detail during Q&A. We now invite your questions/comments.


Louise Comfort: Joe, does TranSafe have any capacity to do reasoning by the computer to assess the level of risk for the community?

Joe Roberts: Not right now, Louise. It takes each chemical and provides the user with the DOT ERG guidebook recommendation. It does not take into account population density or other variables like that. It does give you the official recommendation.


Fred Baehl: This sounds really good, but does it work in Canada?

Joe Roberts: Not in this release. The next generation mapping engine (first of next year) will cover the US (AK and HI) and Canada.


Rick Tobin: What types of system compatibility concerns should a user be aware of?

Joe Roberts: TranSafe currently supports Netscape 4.0 and higher and IE4 and higher.


Roger Kershaw: Does this mapping show topography, water courses, etc also. How current is the street location, contact telephone, names etc?

Joe Roberts: Again, this mapping engine does not support topo maps or hydrology. The next release should handle both. As for the location information, it is provided by a third party and is updated quarterly.


Rick Tobin: What about multiple chemical hazards from the same site? How do the maps overlay or interact when there is a chemical synergy past the point of release?

Joe Roberts: Right now, in multiple chemical incidents TranSafe will collect each chemical's information from the ERG guidebook. From that it will calculate the largest of the recommended PADs and display that on the map. As far as reactivity TranSafe does notify the user if it is reactive with water or under heat.


Cam King: Could you outline the costs associated with accessing the programme?

Joe Roberts: Yes. Right now there are three levels of subscription. The Bronze or base level of subscription is $500/year/user. The next, Silver is $750/year/customer that includes a public chat forum and a number of prepaid incident reports. The Gold package is $1000/year/user and includes unlimited reporting and a private Archive-able chat feature.


Amy Sebring: Joe, can you define "user"? For example, if the EM, Fire Chief and Police Chief were subscribed, that would be 3 users?

Joe Roberts: An individual that has paid for a subscription. Yes, and they can form their own "group" so that they could share an incident archive, contact information, etc.


Amy Sebring: Joe, how do you envision this to be used for exercises?

Joe Roberts: TranSafe is a good tool to start the organization process of incident control. Groups could run drills in which individuals could gather critical information before they send responders to the scene. They could see what sensitive locations are in the area, provide accurate weather and driving directions. And give the responders a "heads up" on the chemicals involved.


Amy Sebring: Did I understand correctly that there are some Incident Command System principles incorporated?

Joe Roberts: Sure. If a person (that could be an executive or a manager) were looking to steer his people in the right direction concerning a particular incident, he could likely say to his group, "I just input an incident into TranSafe, go there to get the particulars and complete your assigned tasks." Then those group members could log in and run (from the archive) the most recent incident to see the particulars.


Avagene Moore: Have you beta tested TranSafe with a community or more than one? If so, what kind of feedback did you get?

Joe Roberts: Not really "Beta" testing, just sort of feeling the waters. The real beta testing will start in a couple of day with the first commercial version that is nearing completion.


Rick Tobin: What types of costs will a jurisdiction have to consider for installation and use of TranSafe, including upgrades and annual user fees, if any?

Joe Roberts: Because TranSafe is a web-based technology some costs that a particular site would incur would be minimal. Training for instance would be light so long as users were familiar with the Web. Other than that, cost would be incurred in adding features such as private chat or extra reporting capabilities.


Cam King: Joe, could you put up your web address?

Joe Roberts: Amy, you might have to help me on this one but the address for the test site is <http://www.csmzone.com>. You can actually open a trial account to test the tool in its pre-release version. But keep in mind much of the functionality has been cleaned up considerably.

Amy Sebring: Also linked on today's background page.


Amy Sebring: To what extent can you accommodate User supplied data, such as plans, additional contact info, etc?

Joe Roberts: The next release will implement a TranSafe tools section that is specifically designed to accommodate user uploads. Because users are already in groups they would then have the ability to post (and have access to) documents that were critical to their organization like contact lists or procedure guides.


Amy Sebring: Can this be interfaced somehow with existing mobile data terminal systems?

Joe Roberts: Not with this release.

Amy Sebring: In the future?

Joe Roberts: Yes, it has been talked about but no specific plans have been made to accommodate. We crave feedback in that regard.


Amy Sebring: What kind of performance can you get on hand held mobile devices? Can the maps be seen?

Joe Roberts: In the preliminary testing we have done, yes, the maps can be seen in a static state so long as the hand held device can accommodate images. We have had most success with instant notification systems whereupon the user can be notified with a text message containing the incident details on their web-enabled cell phone.


Amy Sebring: Is that a feature that is initiated by one of the subscribed Users?

Joe Roberts: Yes. For instance, a person in your group runs a new TranSafe demo and you are notified of their input automatically by TranSafe.


Amy Sebring: Joe are there any other features you would like to mention before we begin to wrap up?

Joe Roberts: No, that about does it. The consumer release should be available around Sept. 17, 2000.


Amy Sebring: Will you have a demo on the site of the released version later?

Joe Roberts: Yes. The version that will be available next month allows users to run a series of "pre-canned" scenarios that return full TranSafe results.

Amy Sebring: Thank you very much for being with us today, Joe. We very much appreciate your time and effort. Please stand by a moment while we take care of some business. Today's session will be accessible via the Transcripts link on our home page on Monday, including links to the slides. The text version will be up later today.

Joe Roberts: Thank you all.


Amy Sebring: Avagene, can you tell us about next week please?

Avagene Moore: Yes, Amy, thank you. And thank you, Joe, for a fine presentation today. Very informative.

Next week, the EIIP Virtual Forum presents an overview of the Community & Family Preparedness Conference that is underway as we speak at EMI, Emmitsburg MD.

Ralph Swisher, who heads up the CFP program for the FEMA Preparedness Directorate, will be our featured speaker. We hope David Larimer will be online with us as well; David works with Ralph at FEMA.

As most of you are aware, we have worked with the CFP program for the past 2 years and feature a session each month that relates to the CFP program. Many of our audience participants are working in that area across the country. This is an important program that really impacts families and individual citizens in our respective communities.

Make plans to be here -- the session will be a good one! Next Wednesday, August 30, 12:00 Noon EDT. That's all for now, Amy.

Amy Sebring: Thanks to all our participants today. We will adjourn the session for now, but you are welcome to remain for open discussion. You no longer need to use question marks. Please help us express our appreciation to Joe for today's presentation.