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Achiever Profile: Domino is USDA Choice

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is using a Domino-based early warning system to keep the country's food supply safe from disease.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is implementing a Domino-based early warning system to keep the country's food supply safe from disease.

The USDA's Emergency Management Reporting System (EMRS) will track outbreaks and manage the department's efforts to contain them.

Atlanta-based Eagle Technology Consultants LLC, which developed the EMRS in Domino 5 , says that in an emergency, the Web-based system may scale up to as many as 10,000 users. The USDA uses the EMRS on AIX.

"We made the system Web-based to make it easier for officials from other agencies and local vets to access the system," said Kevin Anderson, Eagle Tech's founder.

Laptop users at remote locations can access the EMRS through Domino Off-Line Services and sync up to the USDA's servers when they reach an Internet uplink.

To support the need for rapid scalability in the EMRS, the USDA is installing new servers and network hardware at its facilities in Riverdale, Md., and Fort Collins, Colo. The USDA is paying for the EMRS in part with federal dollars earmarked for homeland security.

"It's the kind of system you don't ever want to have to use," Anderson said. "But it's one that you're glad to have in an emergency."

In fact, the EMRS has already seen action, after an outbreak of avian influenza in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley. USDA officials and Virginia veterinarians last spring used the EMRS to study the spread of the disease and coordinate the slaughter of more than 1 million chickens and turkeys.

The EMRS's Investigation module helped contain the outbreak and prevented widespread damage to Virginia's $787 million poultry industry.

Eagle Tech's greatest challenge has been integrating Domino with geographic mapping software from Redlands, Calif.-based Environmental Systems Research Institute Inc. (ESRI).

Eagle Tech used JavaScript and HTML to customize ESRI's mapping application server, ArcIMS, and its database management system, ArcSDE. The consulting firm then used Lotus Enterprise Integrator to integrate the EMRS with the USDA's Oracle Generic Database (GDB), which lists millions of farms and other animal locations throughout the United States.

With the ESRI software tapping the USDA database, officials can view the real-time progress of outbreaks and containment efforts on maps. EMRS ensures that data contributed by veterinarians and epidemiologists can be used by the Investigation module and the ESRI mapping software.

"We're using Java and XML to allow the USDA to store information [in the ESRI system] in text format," Anderson said. That information can than be viewed on a map that shows everything that has occurred in the past 24 hours.

According to a statement by the USDA, the data collected through the EMRS will also serve as a historical reference for analysis, so that future outbreaks of disease can, it is hoped, be controlled even more effectively.

The EMRS took three months to develop and has been so effective that at least one Northeastern state is prepared to invest in the software, according to Eagle Tech.

Anderson said that developing the highly scalable and responsive EMRS would have been difficult without Domino.

"Domino is the biggest workflow package around," he said, "and that's what you need when you're working with one of the nation's largest, most impor

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