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DHS Gives Arlington County (Va.) a Pre-Release Overview of Cutting-Edge Risk and Resiliency Tools

Tuesday, July 12, 2011  
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"Working toward Resilience in the Built Environment"

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) and the National Institute of Building Sciences recently gave Arlington County, Virginia, a sneak-peak at some powerful new tools to help building owners, designers and communities prepare their buildings and critical infrastructure against potential manmade or natural disasters.

Located directly across the river from Washington, D.C., Arlington County has all 18 sectors of critical infrastructure, as well as landmarks such as the Pentagon (one of the largest buildings in the world), the Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, Arlington National Cemetery and the Iwo Jima and Air Force Memorials; Metro, Virginia Railway Express (VRE) and Amtrak stations; a water plant; interstate and regional road systems; 170 commercial office buildings and 45 hotels.

Arlington Economic Development and DHS S&T partnered in the development and pilot testing of Integrated Rapid Visual Screening (IRVS) tools to evaluate commercial office buildings, tunnels and transit stations. These user-friendly tools help law enforcement agencies, emergency managers, facility managers, engineers and architects to obtain a preliminary risk assessment rating for buildings and infrastructure. The rapid visual screening procedure can be used to assess the risk to a tunnel, mass transit station or building due to a terrorist attack and evaluate the potential catastrophic losses (fatalities, injuries, damage and business interruption). The IRVS for buildings addresses chemical, biological, radiological and explosives (CBRE), earthquake, winds, floods and fires. Experts can use the IRVS information to support higher-level assessments and mitigation measures.

Arlington is working with the real estate and developer communities to find pilot sites for the web-based Owners Performance Requirements (OPR) Tool, which allows owners to analyze a range of high-performance requirements (security, energy conservation and renewal, environmental sustainability, durability and continuity of operations) to meet their business case model or mission. It lets owners evaluate the effects of changing goals and select the optimal outcome. The OPR Tool helps owners set requirements, view results, understand interactions and cost, and develop an analysis-based plan for the design team.

Arlington has also asked DHS to include it in the development of the Washington, D.C. Urban Blast Tool (UBT). This tool lets law enforcement and first responders estimate the intensity of potential blast effects caused by a suspicious vehicle, suicide bombers or packages left behind in an urban environment. The fast-running tool accesses a database containing analysis, calculations and modeling that take into account different sizes and shapes of explosive threats, as well as detonation location.

The pre-release review of the IRVS, OPR and UBT included live demonstrations of the tools. In addition to a preview of these tools, S&T provided a short overview of other initiatives, including:

  • Building and Infrastructure Protection Series (BIPS). This series of publications provides design professionals and owners/operators of critical infrastructure with state-of-the-art research on protecting buildings and infrastructure against terrorist attacks. The series covers a variety of topics, such as protecting college campuses against shootings and techniques for performing risk assessments for mass transit, tunnels and buildings.
    • Preventing Structures from Collapsing to Limit Damage to Adjacent Structures and Additional Loss of Life when Explosive Devices Impact Highly Populated Urban Centers
    • Integrated Rapid Visual Screening for Mass Transit
    • Integrated Rapid Visual Screening for Tunnels
    • Integrated Rapid Visual Screening for Buildings (currently only available to a select audience)
    • Reference Manual to Mitigate Potential Terrorist Attacks Against Buildings (Summer 2011)
    • Primer to Design Safe School Projects in Case of School Shooting and Terrorist Attacks (Summer 2011)
    • Aging of Infrastructure (available now)
  • Ultra High Performance Concrete (UHPC). This material, currently in development, is a high-performance concrete that is being formulated to be easily used when an all-hazard, integrated approach is required. This material must be affordable and competitive in the U.S. market. The UHPC needs to meet performance requirements for explosives and other natural hazards such as earthquakes, floods, winds and fire. Product benefits need to include durability, fewer reinforcement requirements and low project maintenance. It also must be affordable and competitive in the U.S. market.

View the presentation slides on the Arlington Economic Development website or the National Institute of Building Sciences website. The tools are expected to be available by late summer 2011.

For more information about Arlington Economic Development, contact Kelly Rindfusz,, (703) 228-0890.

For more information about the National Institute of Building Sciences, contact Gretchen Hesbacher,, (202) 289-7800.

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