Newswise — Back in April 2013, the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) gave credit to the Science and Technology Directorate’s (S&T) Center of Excellence (COE)-developed Coast Guard Search and Rescue Visual Analytics (cgSARVA) system for its 2012 role in Superstorm Sandy.

This was just one high-impact use case for the tool, funded by S&T’s Office of University Programs (OUP) and developed by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Center for Visualization and Data Analytics (CVADA), co-lead Purdue University through the Visual Analytics Command, Control and Interoperability Environments (VACCINE) Center. Using this visual, user-centered platform, USCG decision makers could spot the stations most capable of responding to the disaster and helped prioritize the restoration of stations in need of repair.

CgSARVA was part of the Coast Guard’s initiated Station Optimization Process, meant to analyze its boat stations and identify those that could be closed because they provide overlapping and unnecessarily duplicative SAR coverage, explained LCDR Philip Baxa, USCG Office of Requirements and Analysis.  The output provided by cgSARVA is part of a nine-step process that identifies several candidates that achieve cost savings without impeding the Coast Guard’s ability to meet its search and rescue (SAR) response standard and carry out its other missions.

Today, cgSARVA still saves the USCG significant time and energy when planning responses to similar events, allowing swift delivery and the greatest return on investment.

“This is an example of how we [OUP] enable DHS components and universities to work together to address high-priority and mission needs,” says Dr. Matthew Clark, Director of the Office of University Programs (OUP), S&T Research and Development Partnerships. 

S&T works with its public and private partners, called the Homeland Security Enterprise (HSE), to develop innovative solutions like these, for monitoring and staying ahead of natural and man-made threats. Here, OUP saw a need to empower the USCG with greater resilience by funding the development of cgSARVA. The tool has been extremely well-received since its initial deployment, and its benefits to USCG may be seen for years to come.

“CgSARVA is an excellent communication tool that helps analysts rapidly illustrate the operational impacts of variations to the U.S. Coast Guard’s boat station search and rescue capability,” said Baxa.

Today, it is being used once again as USCG looks at the broader scope of its operations, alongside the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), to discover the strengths of different stations and see where they can be put to their best use. A recent GAO report verified the reliability of the cgSARVA interface in determining this, with how it yields specific operational metrics such as geography, boat speeds and aviation capabilities, to evaluate the effectiveness of response. Many more operational variables can be accounted for using this tool—which appears to have limitless analytical potential.

“CgSARVA has continued to evolve to include additional data sources, features, and analysis to provide more functionality to the U.S. Coast Guard. The basic structure of cgSARVA can be used for analysis, resource allocation, and planning in a variety of applications, including law enforcement, public health, public safety, and supply chain logistics,” says Dr. David Ebert, Director of VACCINE at Purdue University.

The tool takes data from the USCG Marine Information for Safety and Law Enforcement (MISLE) database, essentially a repository of past cases, and puts it through a system of filters to judge how effective a response can be, given certain parameters. It begins with a map of USCG stations across the country, taking into account specific assets, vehicle speeds and distances, to provide the most informed portrait of a hypothetical response. CgSARVA data informs the strategic planning process to help ensure the USCG meets its 2-hour SAR standard, allowing responders to send the right vehicles to the location and perform the rescue.

The USCG currently has 190 boat stations and 24 air stations in operation. CgSARVA allows USCG to see its activity in a clear, comprehensive light and make changes where necessary. VACCINE is just one of many success stories from S&T’s Office of University Programs (OUP), pursuing innovation that enables first responders to save more lives. With greater specialization behind the USCG response effort, communities coast-to-coast are better prepared for whatever danger might arise.

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