• Disaster predictionPredicting floods, hurricanes with social media

    Social media can warn us about hurricanes, storms, and floods before they happen – according to new research. Key words and photos on social media can signal developing risks – like water levels rising before a flood. Researchers, who analyzed posts on Flickr between 2004 and 2014, found certain words – such as river, water, and landscape - take on distinct meaning of forecast and warning during time periods leading to extreme weather events. Words can be used as ‘social sensors’, to create accurate early warning system for extreme weather, alongside physical sensors.

  • Disaster responseHow disaster relief efforts could be improved with game theory

    By Anna Nagurney

    The number of disasters has doubled globally since the 1980s, with the damage and losses estimated at an average $100 billion a year since the new millennium, and the number of people affected also growing. Hurricane Katrina in 2005 was the costliest natural disaster in the U.S., with estimates between $100 billion and $125 billion. The death toll of Katrina is still being debated, but we know that at least 2,000 were killed, and thousands were left homeless. Worldwide, the toll is staggering. The challenges to disaster relief organizations, including nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), are immense, and the competition among them is intense. My team and I have been looking at a novel way to improve how we respond to natural disasters. One solution might be game theory.

  • Disaster podsTsunami pod to the rescue

    What if you are a coastal dweller and you hear a tsunami warning – but you have no way, or no time, to run for high ground before the wave hits. What if there are no tall, sturdy buildings nearby? Mukilteo, Washington-based Survival-Capsule has a solution: A tsunami pod. The Survival Capsule is a patent-pending, personal safety system (PSS) is a spherical ball to protect against tsunami events, tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, and storm surges.

  • ResilienceRecovery lessons from Hurricane Sandy to help improve resilience, disaster preparedness

    Purdue University will lead a $2.5 million, four-year research to determine why some communities recover from natural disasters more quickly than others, an effort aimed at addressing the nation’s critical need for more resilient infrastructure and to enhance preparedness. The research team will apply advanced simulations and game-theory algorithms, access millions of social media posts and survey data collected along the New Jersey shore, which was devastated by Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

  • EducationUAlbany names dean of Homeland Security College

    The University at Albany has appointed Robert Griffin as its new dean for the College of Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security and Cybersecurity (CEHC). CEHC was created under the leadership of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo in 2015, as the first of its kind in the nation. The college is dedicated to advancing educational and practical skills needed to prepare for, protect against, respond to, and recover from a growing array of natural and human-caused risks and threats in New York State and around the world.

  • Disaster preparationsUSGS, DoD partner in preparing for major natural disasters

    In 2003, USGS partnered with the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) - U.S. Northern Command (USNORTHCOM) to establish a liaison between the two organizations to facilitate science support in the event of a major natural disaster. The USGS liaison coordinates requests for science information and expertise, and general civil support and humanitarian assistance activities. This science support enables USNORTHCOM to perform critical national defense and civil support missions, as well as understand the impacts of natural disasters.

  • ResilienceBe Prepared: Canada engages youth in disaster resilience

    Large-scale natural disasters have been on the rise worldwide, and while the exact cause is unclear, there is something most scientists, policy-makers, and legislators can all agree with — the increasing global need to invest in disaster preparedness, prevention, and recovery. Canadian experts say they are constantly evaluating and improving Canada’s emergency preparedness and the most effective ways to keep people safe. But some experts are taking a different approach to disaster resiliency: they are engaging youth.

  • FloodsRecent history of U.S. floods shows regional trends, but no national pattern

    A new study examined the recent history of floods in the United States for the time period 1940-2013. The scientists found some regional trends, but no widespread national pattern of flood change. “An important prerequisite for effective flood risk management is to have an accurate assessment of how flooding is changing over time,” said one researcher. “Of course, changes in climate as well as land- and water-use management are each potential sources of change in flooding frequency or magnitude. But the relative influence of these factors across broad areas has been difficult to discern.”

  • Oil spillsInsights on Deepwater Horizon disaster

    The soon-to-be-released thriller “Deepwater Horizon,” which opens in theaters 30 September, promises moviegoers a chilling reenactment of one of history’s worst oil rig disasters. One scholar of societal collapse will enter the theater with a big-picture view of the perfect storm of factors that led to the explosion and oil spill that killed eleven people and sent more than 200 million gallons of crude oil spewing toward the nation’s southern coastline for eighty-seven days.

  • 9/11: 15 years onCommand under attack: What we’ve learned since 9/11 about managing crises

    By Herman B. "Dutch" Leonard, Arnold M. Howitt, Christine Cole, and Joseph W. Pfeifer

    Major disasters pose difficult challenges for responders on the ground and for higher-level officials trying to direct operations. Some events are novel because of their scale, while others involve challenges that no one may ever have envisioned. Communities need to bring their response agencies together regularly to plan and practice. This can develop and maintain knowledge and relationships that will enable them to work together effectively under the high stress of a future attack or disaster. Any community can do this, but many have not. Where training and practice have taken place, these tools have worked. They can be improved, but the most important priority is getting more communities to practice using them more regularly, before the next disaster. One important way this nation can honor the victims of 9/11 is by using these lessons to create the conditions for even better coordination in future events.

  • Resilience1.4 billion people face severe natural disaster risks in South Asia

    New data has revealed that 1.4 billion people in South Asia, or 81 percent of the region’s population, are acutely exposed to at least one type of natural hazard and live in areas considered to have insufficient resources to cope with and rebound from an extreme event. Poor governance, weak infrastructure, and high levels of poverty and corruption amplify the economic and humanitarian losses associated with significant natural hazards events – and these factors will exacerbate the consequences of natural disasters especially in Africa, a continent which hosts eight out of the nine countries most vulnerable to natural hazards.

  • EmergenciesIn emergencies, don’t trust a robot too much

    In emergencies, people may trust robots too much for their own safety, a new study suggests. In a mock building fire, test subjects followed instructions from an “Emergency Guide Robot” even after the machine had proven itself unreliable — and after some participants were told that robot had broken down.

  • Extreme eventsWhat we need to know about living in an era of extreme events

    The recent flooding in South Carolina is yet another reminder of just how much destruction natural disasters can cause and how ill prepared communities throughout the United States continue to be. Extreme events such as flooding, drought, and storms are leading to not only short-term economic and health impacts but are setting the stage for significant struggles for future generations. A multi-disciplinary seminar explored what we have learned from past events and what the latest science tells us about the future of disaster preparedness, response and recovery.

  • PreparednessMissouri schools underprepared for pandemics, bioterrorism, natural disasters

    Pandemic preparedness is not only critical because of the threat of a future pandemic or an outbreak of an emerging infectious disease, but also because school preparedness for all types of disasters, including biological events, is mandated by the U.S. Department of Education. Missouri schools are no more prepared to respond to pandemics, natural disasters, and bioterrorism attacks than they were in 2011, according to a new study. Particular gaps were found in bioterrorism readiness — less than 10 percent of schools have a foodservice biosecurity plan and only 1.5 percent address the psychological needs that accompany a bioterrorism attack.

  • PreparednessHurricane lessons: Lamar U has developed contingency plans for its contingency plans

    The idea of a contingency plan for a contingency plan would strike most people as somewhat silly, and most others as wasting time in a situation where time is a critical. For some time, the military has taught that when disaster strikes, the most effective means of calming one’s self is to perform a routine act, such as tying one’s shoe lacing, grading papers, or, in the case of the military, cleaning a weapon. The objective is to settle down in order to make a rational evaluation of the situation, and plan accordingly. The leaders of Lamar University, in Beaumont, Texas, reached the same conclusions after Hurricane Rita came roaring through the campus, and the university was sent reeling from $50 million in damage from the storm, which exposed the shortcomings of the school’s preparedness plans.