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Penn State’s Red Cell Analytics Lab Uses THON and Technology to Better Prepare for Disasters

by on February 19, 2017 5:00 AM

From football games to events like THON, Penn State works vigorously to ensure the safety of all attendees. In the event of an emergency or security threat, people need to evacuate safely and disaster response workers may even have to step in and save lives.

Student researchers in Penn State’s Red Cell Analytics Lab are using THON to better understand how to develop strategies to mitigate security threats. The name “Red Cell” is a reference to military teams who adopt the mindset and tactics of enemies to better recognize security threats and analyze the best response.

Red Cell Lab team members are using a set of open-source technology platforms that combine geolocation, mobile technology, and social media to coordinate responses to disasters as efficiently as possible. The students in the Red Cell Lab only actually get to run the technology during large events like THON and during football games because these situations aren’t typically possible in computer simulations.

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When the Red Cell Lab runs exercises, members of their team go into events to collect information and report back to student analysts. In addition to their assets on the ground, the Red Cell Lab also monitors public social media sites like Twitter to gather information from the crowd to monitor large disaster areas.

During a fall football game at Beaver Stadium, the Red Cell Lab team noticed high traffic areas where there could be a problem if the stadium needed to be evacuated quickly. The information that the group has collected in the past has even assisted Penn State’s emergency management team.

“Unless you’ve been on the scene of a disaster, it’s probably hard to imagine just how chaotic and fluid things are,” IST professor and Red Cell Lab advisor Jake Graham said. “Allowing teams to instantly gather and report back data to analysts gives the responders a chance to better pinpoint needs and reposition assets and personnel to those areas.”

Patrick Cines is a writer for Onward State.
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