Airflow test in New York streets, subways to help emergency planning

April 24, 2013 at 5:44 PM
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NEW YORK, April 24 (UPI) -- U.S. researchers say they'll do airflow tests in New York streets and subways to see how deadly airborne contaminants might disperse in an urban environment.

The test by the U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory and the New York City Police Department will provide data to better understand the risks posed by airborne contaminants, including chemical, biological and radiological weapons, if they were to be dispersed in the atmosphere and in the city's subway system, a Brookhaven release said Wednesday.

Data collected during the three days of research this summer will be used to optimize emergency response following an intentional or accidental release of hazardous materials, officials said.

"The NYPD works for the best but plans for the worst when it comes to potentially catastrophic attacks such as ones employing radiological contaminants or weaponized anthrax," Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly said. "This field study with Brookhaven's outstanding expertise will help prepare and safeguard the city's population in the event of an actual attack."

Both agencies will work with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to test airflow through the subway system.

"Brookhaven Lab is a world leader in the use of tracer gases to study airflow, and we are excited about this opportunity to apply that expertise to enhancing the safety of New York City residents and emergency responders," Brookhaven Lab Director Doon Gibbs said.

Brookhaven scientists will track the movement of harmless tracer gases detected by around 200 air sampling devices placed in select locations on streets and in the subway system.

Previous airflow studies have been carried out in subway systems in Boston and Washington, D.C., but the New York test, set for July, will be the most extensive ever conducted, officials said.

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