Gathering data about a disaster shortly after it happens can greatly assist planners in developing strategies for preventing or at least mitigating the impact of future disasters and developing better responses to them. This is especially true of disasters such as major storms, where cleanup, debris removal, reconstruction, and beach reconstruction can begin very quickly.
Gaining understanding about what went wrong, what could have been done to make the impact less serious, what worked and what didn’t in evacuation or post-disaster information exchange, or even best ways to begin reconstruction, can be greatly aided by such rapidly-collected data. On October 21-22 the Command, Control and Interoperability Center for Advanced Data Analysis (CCICADA) held a workshop at Rutgers University on Science & Technology Innovations and Applications in Hurricane Sandy Research. The understanding gleaned from such data based on Hurricane Sandy was the main theme.
Planning for, and responding to, disasters can also be aided greatly by partnerships among different types of institutions. For instance, having a plan to share information between the private sector and government about the availability of gasoline at stations with power to dispense it could have helped mitigate the difficulties of getting around after Sandy. True academic-government-private sector partnerships were a key theme of the workshop and were reflected in the many institutions from all three sectors represented by speakers and participants.
CCICADA research partner Professor David Mendonca, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, originally conceived the workshop, which was organized by Mendonca, CCICADA Director Professor Fred S. Roberts, and CCICADA Managing Director James P. Wojtowicz. More than 50 researchers, students, practitioners and other interested individuals and guests attended the one-and-one-half day workshop.
This event was a follow-up to the June 5, 2013 Workshop on S&T Innovations in Hurricane Sandy Research that was also held at Rutgers and brought together researchers who received National Science Foundation Rapid Response Research (RAPID) awards to study the impacts of super-storm Sandy. NSF RAPID awards fund the collection of perishable field data on short-lived phenomena, including natural disasters. The overarching objective is to support the transfer of research results and discoveries to practice. At the June 2013 event, initial research in a wide range of impact and recovery topics was presented and discussed.
A primary goal of this workshop was to include the disaster-event researcher and practitioner communities to facilitate a dialogue of what works in the field and how research can contribute toward developing and implementing sound practices under extreme conditions.
Participating researchers provided updated results of their RAPID awards focusing on applications of their science to give meaningful information to frontline disaster response. The key stakeholders and practitioners from government and the private sector additionally shared their perspectives, solutions, future preparation and mitigation plans in response to severe weather events such as Sandy. The academic-practitioner presentations fostered discussion and interest from both fields.
The government and private-sector leadership, responders and planners were well represented at the event and in the program. Dr. Christopher Rodriguez, Director of the NJ Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness, emphasized the importance of, and need for, research-practice cooperation in addressing natural disasters as well as acts of terrorism.
Practitioners covered areas such as response and restoration; building infrastructure resiliency; the challenges and benefits of FEMA aid response; and the planning role of coordinated university research assets and the university emergency response “after-action” findings. The workshop was attended by government and private-sector representatives from the NJ Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness; the NY State Emergency Management Office; NJ Transit; Jersey Central Power and Light Company; the Rutgers Institute for Emergency Preparedness and Homeland Security and the Rutgers University Office of Emergency Management.
The research topics presented were broad in scope. Topics included: storm surge damage and structural vulnerabilities; modeling waves, surge and damage, community impacts; environmental constraints analysis: relocation factors and decision making; debris removal operations; adaptive flood risk reduction strategies; 3D data applications; health impact assessments and disaster recovery; the recovery of vital transportation systems and the value of an interdependent infrastructure restoration system.
The presentations were made by researchers from New York University, University of Notre Dame, Princeton University, Texas Tech University, Texas A&M University, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the City College of New York, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Stevens Institute of Technology, the NJ Institute of Technology and Rutgers.
The informative talks gave rise to much conversation. Networking and the exchange of ideas between first responders and researchers made the event a truly great success. It is clear that ongoing and future collaboration are both needed and desired.