Edited Version February 22, 2001 Transcript
EIIP Tech Arena Online Presentation

"CoBRA: Chemical Biological Response Aide"

Brad Gardner
Craig Levy

Defense Group Inc.

Amy Sebring, Moderator
EIIP Technical Projects Coordinator

The original unedited transcript of the February 22, 2001 online Virtual Tech Arena 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.

[Opening / Introduction]

Amy Sebring: Welcome to the EIIP Tech Arena! Today we are featuring CoBRA: Chemical Biological Response Aide from Defense Group Inc.

I am pleased to introduce Brad Gardner and Craig Levy. Dr. Ponikvar could not join us after all today.

Brad is Deputy for Product Development at DGI, where he leads the software development team building the CoBRA family of products. He also provides scientific, engineering and technical support to the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, the U.S. Department of Energy and to local First Responder organizations dealing with chemical and biological terrorism.

Craig is Deputy for Responder Services and he has a background in firefighting and emergency management with Osceola County, Florida, and has served as adjunct faculty with Breward and Valencia Community Colleges. He writes a Domestic Preparedness column for National Fire & Rescue magazine and is a member of the International Society of Fire Service Instructors.

Welcome to you both gentlemen. We appreciate your taking the time to be with us today. Brad will start us off with the presentation. Brad, I turn the floor over to you.


Brad Gardner: Thank you, Amy. CoBRA is the Chemical Biological Response Aide. It was literally designed by First Responder teams across the country that participated in surveys and interviews given in 2000. It provides a multitude of tools and data needed when responding to incidents ranging from HAZMAT to terrorism.

CoBRA was designed to be used on touchscreen computers in the front seats of response vehicles. As such, a major portion of CoBRA is easy to use tools that give responders immediate access to data previously stored in several different formats and locations with expanded functionality.

On the other hand, CoBRA actively generates incident and status reports that can be instantly communicated up the chain of command to help manage incident response activities. This can be done automatically via wireless communications or something as basic as a floppy disk. Slide 1 shows some of the tools and resources that make up CoBRA.


CoBRA was initially funded by the TSWG (Technical Support Working Group), a DoD office responsible for identifying and filling technology needs. This funding provided for First Responder requirements gathering and adaptation of existing software to fill those requirements.

While gathering requirements from Fire, HAZMAT, Police, Emergency Management, and Forensics communities, DGI concurrently reviewed the major COTS software packages available for assessing, responding to, and managing incidents involving terrorist use of chemical or biological weapons, as well as improvised explosives.

The TSWG and DGI agreed to base CoBRA on software developed for the National Guard Civil Support Teams, formerly known as RAID teams. This software, known as the Rapid Response Toolkit, was adapted into the First Responder Toolkit for the TSWG, then polished and released commercially as CoBRA.


Since CoBRA was designed from feedback from such a wide range of responders, the system is dynamically configured based on how you log in. This also allows you to customize the contents of CoBRA for different user types in a department or jurisdiction.


Once the user is logged in, incident reporting is automatically started behind the scenes. CoBRA's interface consists of a TreeView on the left, which holds all guides, checklists, SOPs, data resources, and tools. Navigation mirrors typical Windows navigation. The data window shows the tools or resource that the user selected from the TreeView. Along the bottom of the screen the incident information is maintained.


The ERG2000 tool is just one example of how CoBRA takes some typical resources and makes them better. The ERG2000 is one of the documents that HAZMAT teams are required by law to reference on the scene of a HAZMAT incident. It is slow to use, but CoBRA's version has a simple search screen that makes getting to the appropriate response guide page very quick.


The Jane's Chem-Bio Handbook is integrated into CoBRA in html format. The hyperlinks at the top of the data window correspond to the tabs sticking out of the hardcopy book. CoBRA contains many other guides, and has the ability to import additional guides and data sources the user or department references regularly.


Many HAZMAT teams perform their preplanning with a free EPA program called CAMEO (Computer-Aided Management of Emergency Operations). CoBRA can read directly from CAMEO database tables, including the RIDS (Response Information Data Sheets). This provides responders and managers a ready reference on over 80,000 chemical names. CoBRA's search screen for the RIDS data is much quicker and easier to use, featuring several search methods (Chemical name, UNID #, STCC #, CAS #, NOAA #).


Since CoBRA is designed for daily use and Chemical or Biological terrorism response, most screens are used in the exact same way for either response. RIDS, for example, can present the user with Sarin response data the same way it presents Chlorine data.

One exception is the Agent ID tool, which can identify the chemical warfare agent class based on signs and symptoms exhibited by victims at the scene of a suspected incident. If the user suspects the release of a chemical weapon, the most likely class of agent can be identified in seconds.

Scoring information is displayed for further analysis, and additional signs and symptoms can be entered to refine the query. Everything is date and time stamped in the incident log for accountability.


Improvised explosives data is also included inside of CoBRA. The ATF's data makes up our current tool, which furnishes standoff distances based on an identified vehicle's capacity for improvised explosives.

The TSWG recently released data that goes down to pipe bomb sized threats. This data is directly importable into CoBRA, and the next version of the explosives data tools will include this new data.


Checklists can be built and deployed into CoBRA as well. The incident reporting system tracks the date and time that each item is checked. A special merge function allows users receiving incident reports to compare incoming checklists with their own, and merge remote checklist data into the local checklist.

This allows people managing the incident to track checklist items from several sources, merge them into a local master checklist, and send it further up the chain of command. This is one example of how CoBRA can be used inside an Incident Command System.

[SLIDE 10]

I've been mentioning the incident reporting system off and on throughout the presentation. More specifically, it enables the user of CoBRA to send an instant picture of their response activities without typing any text. Incident reports can be sent through a common e-mail server, or directly across a network. We typically use wireless communications such as CDPD (Cellular Digital Packet Data) and wireless LAN (802.11b standard).

Receiving an incident report presents you with a miniature TreeView that shows only the tools and data references by the sender. Further, it allows you to jump into the tool exactly as the sender viewed it. For example, if the sender identified Sarin in the RIDS tool, the receiver can click on this in the incident report and instantly jump to the Sarin screen of RIDS on the local machine.

[SLIDE 11]

The last and most powerful feature of CoBRA is the CoBRA Administrator Tools, which come free with CoBRA. This allows you to modify CoBRA's contents and deploy them (in a similar way as incident reports) to the CoBRA's in the field, which will automatically accept the changes at startup.

The Administrator Tools allow you to modify profiles, logon IDs, checklists, and the TreeView. Modification of the TreeView includes adding tools or data guides into your new profiles, including adding your own new checklists and documents. Slide 12 lists the file formats that CoBRA supports, which includes most common PC formats, such as DOC, PPT, and PDF.

[SLIDE 12]

In summary, CoBRA is product that we feel is much simpler to use without sacrificing capability. It scales seamlessly from HAZMAT incidents to terrorism response.

[SLIDE 13]

We have a demo CD available for people who are interested, which contains a 30 day full working copy of a smaller product called CoBRA GUIDE 2000, which is just the ERG2000 portion of CoBRA. The CD also contains multimedia tours through some of CoBRA's main features. Anyone interested can call us toll-free at 1-877-233-5789, email us at <[email protected]>, or visit us online at <http://www.cobraguides.com>.

[SLIDE 14]

Lastly, I want to encourage everyone to give us a close look and help strengthen First Responder products like CoBRA through detailed feedback. Many of our features in development now come from people like you who have great ideas but don't lead a software development team for implementing them.

Thanks. We look forward to your questions and feedback.

[Audience Questions & Answers]

Amy Sebring: Thank you, Brad. We now invite your questions/comments.


Elaine Sudanowicz: What is the cost of the COBRA System?

Brad Gardner: $500 per license. Very inexpensive due to the sponsorship of TSWG during the initial development.


Andre Thomas: Is there a charge for the Demo CD?

Craig Levy: The Demo CD is free.


Amy Sebring: Thanks Craig. Can you explain how it is licensed? Per vehicle?

Craig Levy: Per computer installation.


Terry Storer: Do you have the capability to export data elements into NFIRS 5.0?

Brad Gardner: Not at this time. That is a good idea for the next version, though.


Jim McBride: Can this be used on handheld devices?

Brad Gardner: Yes, we have a version for Windows CE devices. That has some limitations but overall does almost everything that the laptop version does. Same price. No Palm version yet.


Avagene Moore: I missed the first few minutes and apologize if you explained this -- is there a tutorial included? How much time does it take for the average person to get up to speed?

Craig Levy: It is simple to use. We have training material available. I can use it and am a computer idiot.


Bernard Dubb: Can COBRA be integrated into a packet radio and/or APRS system?

Craig Levy: Yes, it works with radio modems.


David Crews: Does it have a capability to do nuclear materials/response?

Brad Gardner: We do have the ability to import guides and data specific to any response type. But CoBRA does not ship pre-configured with as much data for nuclear as it does for HAZMAT / Chem-Bio.


Elaine Sudanowicz: Is COBRA interoperable with ENCOMPASS developed by DARPA now transitioning to local first responders ? ENCOMPASS = Enhanced Consequence Management Planning and Support System.

Brad Gardner: I'm not sure. Although DGI has several contracts with DARPA, I am not personally familiar with ENCOMPASS, although CoBRA's next version will use the XML specification heavily, which will increase its interoperability with other systems greatly.


Martha Davis: Regarding agent ID by symptom. How many agents (chemical and bio) are included? Also, what about mixed releases, how would these be identified by symptoms?

Brad Gardner: The agent ID tool identifies the agent class, and all chemical agent classes are included in the tool. They included Jane's CB Handbook also has a section that will allow you to double-check against the agent ID tool. Mixed releases will most likely result in the agent ID tool identifying the worst agent class.


Bruce Smith: What are your sources of data for agent ID and what type of systems architecture are you using?

Brad Gardner: The agent ID tool data is based on SBCCOM data. Systems architecture. The system has all data local on the machine, and receives updates over the wireless or wired network. This ensures that Responders on scene will not lose any functionality if they lose network connectivity. We rely on only FREE viewers so there is never a hidden cost in server software, third party software, etc.


Martha Davis: So how many classes of agents? Any difference than Jane's CB?

Brad Gardner: I believe the agents are classed into 6 classes. The difference between the tool and the Jane's book is automation, scoring analysis view, and ability to easily refine the sign/s symptoms. Also everything is automatically logged.


Beth C. Booth: Who is currently using CoBRA?

Craig Levy: The New Mexico CST (CST is Civil Support Team.) Several Fire Departments. A couple of Police Departments.

Brad Gardner: We are relatively new (December release).


Amy Sebring: I am unclear about the Agent ID. Was that chemical only, or is there some bio also?

Craig Levy: It is Chemical Agent only. But we have Bio agent information as patient presentation info for DR's.

Brad Gardner: Biological agent ID is very hard to do based on signs/symptoms, since many happen over days and may not be exhibited on scene.


Amy Sebring: Right. Thanks. Brad, I believe you mentioned plans for a future release. Can you tell us more about what you have planned?

Brad Gardner: Yes. CoBRA Pro will have an expanded tool set, including custom reports, more mapping, a precursors identification tool, and enhanced Web-reporting of incident reports.


Bruce Smith: What method are you using to consider data righteousness?

Brad Gardner: Data sources are documented in the user's manual, and come from well known sources such as SBCCOM, FBI, EPA, CDC. User-added data is not our responsibility, and it is possible (if need be) to tell what has been added vs. what came preloaded.


Terry Storer: Will you have a demo at the Fire Department Instructor's Conference (FDIC) in Indianapolis later this month? Booth number?

Brad Gardner: Booth number is 3404, and we will be showing CoBRA and hardened laptops that are decon-able.

Craig Levy: We are also doing a technical presentation Wednesday at 3pm on WMD Scene management.

Brad Gardner: We will also do mini-training on the show floor free of charge.


Martha Davis: Will the mapping include plume models? Integrate with GIS/CATS? Also, which wireless ability(s)? Also will you be at Texas A&M in March?

Brad Gardner: Mapping will be GIS based capable of reading in standard ESRI layers (same as CATS - an ArcView based system). Wireless includes pretty much anything that can connect you - we have several different methods you can use for transferring data and selecting the appropriate one can be done based on the type of wireless you have. For example, Craig is using the 802.11b wireless LAN now, and we've used CoBRA very successfully over that, which makes a great solution for entering a hot zone. We will not be at Texas A&M. Sorry.


Judy Jaeger: Does CoBRA create its own incident log? If so, what information is recorded?

Brad Gardner: Yes. Lots and lots of information goes into the log. A text version is generated that says things like "WMD Checklist 5 activated at 10:15." and a data portion is generated that gets directed by CoBRA into a point and click type interface. You can add any text to the incident log, but it automatically tracks every checklist, document viewed, chemical identified, in what tool, ant what time, etc. The demo CD shows a little more of this.


Amy Sebring: Is there any way of integrating real-time weather data or do you have any plans in this regard?

Brad Gardner: CoBRA has a browser function, so if you have a www site that you can access, consider it done already.

Final Question:

Bruce Smith: We know about different sources but they do not always agree. How do you deal with that?

Craig Levy: We take the most conservative approach. As we currently do to manage the differences in our hazmat info.


Amy Sebring: Let's go ahead and wrap up. Excellent presentation. Thank you very much Brad and Craig for being with us today. We very much appreciate your time and effort. Please stand by a moment while we take care of some business.

We will have a text transcript posted later today, and reformatted versions with links to the slides at the end of the week. Avagene, can you tell us what is on for next week please?

Avagene Moore: Thank you, Amy. Gentlemen, on behalf of the EIIP, we appreciate your time and effort and commend you for a fine presentation.

Next week, February 28, 12:00 Noon EST, we feature the National Emergency Management Association (NEMA) in a session follow up to their recent mid-year conference in Washington DC, Feb. 10-14. Emily DeMers will be with us as well as one or two State Directors/NEMA members to discuss highlights and outcomes of this working meeting. Of course, we are urging NEMA members as well as you to support the session and participate in the dialogue. Topics and issues covered by the NEMA Conference Program are relevant to anyone / everyone in the emergency management business today.

Schedule next Wednesday and please join us. That's all for now, Amy.

Amy Sebring: Thanks, Ava. If you are not on our mailing list and would like to receive weekly notices and our newsletter, please see <http://mail.wces.net:81/guest/RemoteListSummary/EIIP> to subscribe.

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 Brad and Craig for today's presentation.