• ResilienceHow microgrids could boost resilience in New Orleans

    During Hurricane Katrina and other severe storms that have hit New Orleans, power outages, flooding and wind damage combined to cut off people from clean drinking water, food, medical care, shelter, prescriptions and other vital services. Researchers at Sandia and Los Alamos national laboratories teamed up with the City of New Orleans to analyze ways to increase community resilience and improve the availability of critical lifeline services during and after severe weather.

  • Flood mitigationComprehensive strategy required to tackle Houston flooding problems

    A new report by leading Texas researchers analyzes in detail a variety of shortcomings with the Houston area’s current — and proposed — approach to flood control. The report calls on civil leaders to pursue a multifaceted and regional strategy which ensures that all communities receive better protection regardless of socioeconomic status.

  • Disaster responseSoutheastern European nations are latest to adopt emergency-response system

    By Kylie Foy

    The Next-Generation Incident Command System (NICS), developed nearly a decade ago by MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory and the DHS Science and Technology Directorate (S&T), is used today around the world for emergency response. Lincoln Laboratory, in partnership with NATO,  is modifying the system, and in its latest development, NICS has been implemented in the southeastern European nations of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, and Montenegro.

  • Hurricane responseNew technology aids hurricane response

    By Kylie Foy

    The 2017 hurricane season was catastrophic. Hurricane Harvey, plaguing Texas with floods, was followed quickly by Irma, whose winds battered Florida and the Caribbean. Hurricane Maria then raged upon Puerto Rico and other islands already reeling from previous storms. In the buildup and aftermath, Lincoln Laboratory quickly assembled teams and technology to aid federal agencies in managing these disasters. Lincoln Laboratory staff deployed tools to help FEMA plan evacuations, monitor storms, and assess the damage wrought by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria.

  • Disaster aftermathLost in the numbers: The hidden traumas of disaster

    In the aftermath of disasters – hurricanes, earthquakes, epidemics, armed conflict, and the like – it is difficult to describe the true extent of damage wrought on society. Lost in these numbers is a hidden trauma that is difficult to measure, even when it is diagnosed. Disasters affect the mental health not only of those directly impacted by the disaster, but of those everywhere the disaster causes distress. Mental trauma is widespread, affecting far more people than physical injury. Long after physical wounds heal, mental trauma remains. Failing to address mental trauma neglects the well-being of tens of thousands of Americans, and millions more around the globe, each year.

  • Disaster aftermathUnderstanding community resilience, recovery in face of disaster

    From Puerto Rico to Missouri to California, Americans in recent years have confronted disasters that have disrupted communities and destroyed homes, businesses and infrastructure. A team of engineers, computer scientists, economists, urban planners and sociologists are part of 5-year study examining how communities recover from disaster and become more resilient to future adversity. “Resilience is a community’s ability to prepare for, anticipate and adapt to challenging conditions, and withstand and recover rapidly from disruptions,” says one researcher.

  • ResilienceIsraeli trauma experts teach resilience in Houston

    By Abigail Klein Leichman

    As Hurricane Harvey ripped through Houston last August, the trauma didn’t even spare those whose job is to help others cope. One social worker, barricaded on the second floor of her house, watched in horror as water and mud flooded her first floor. Another was stuck in a closet with her dog for twenty-four hours. Many mental-health professionals felt helpless or guilty for their inability to respond to people in need as they usually would. And other professionals, such as educators, did not feel adequately prepared to tend psychological wounds among those they work with. Mental-health professionals from the Israel Trauma Coalition kick off a series of train-the-trainer sessions for about 65 professionals.

  • Post-disaster reconstructionDisasters are destroying places we hold dear. What we do next will make all the difference.

    By Stephen Miller

    When fires, floods and other major disruptions alter natural areas, our first instinct is to restore what’s lost. But moving forward may mean leaving some treasured things behind. On 2 September 2017, a wildfire ignited in the Columbia River Gorge about 40 miles east of Portland, Oregon. Quickly, flames spread across the canyon’s south side and ascended the surrounding cliffs, where dry east winds blew them into an inferno. Within three days the Eagle Creek Fire had enveloped more than 20,000 acres and jumped the river to the north rim. With smoke still choking its skies, the community plunged into a debate over how it should respond to this profound loss: try to reconstruct the past, or accept a new reality? Inhabitants of a dynamic world have grappled with this question for eons, but today and in a future where climate change is quickly destabilizing our environments, the changes are becoming more frequent and more consequential. More than ever, policy-makers and land managers are needing to make tough choices about humankind’s role in managing the natural world. Biologist Johanna Varner does not intend to encourage complacency about disasters that arise as a result of human activity, but she points out that our new reality is likely to be a time of great loss, and how we choose to respond to those losses will make a big difference. In the Columbia River Gorge or elsewhere, whether we re-create what goes missing, build something new or leave it alone entirely, our decisions will seed the future.

  • Post-disaster reconstructionPost-disaster reconstruction divides society

    In 2004, a tsunami devastated much of the Indonesian city of Banda Aceh. An estimated 160,000 people were killed. In the years that followed, aid providers rebuilt homes on the same plots that had been completely destroyed by the tsunami, in order to avoid displacing the residents. In doing so, they were acting in accordance with a humanitarian principle that comes into play after natural disasters, namely to help survivors to return to their previous places of residence whenever possible. Yet in Banda Aceh, many tsunami survivors preferred to move inland instead, leading to a price premium for properties farther from the coast and socio-economic segregation. The unfortunate result is that lower-income residents are now disproportionately exposed to coastal hazards.

  • ResilienceTwo things matter when bouncing back from natural disasters

    Disaster happens. But solid local leadership combined with the right outside partners can mitigate the fallout and save lives. ‘The national actors who are there, whether they are firefighters, first responders, or people working on disaster and emergency preparedness policy — they are the ones who drive the conversation,” says one expert. But the second part of developing resiliency in the face of a disaster, she adds, is having international players acting as a catalyst. “This is central to the actual activities that you’re delivering.”

  • ResilienceCities with bad traffic may be more resilient to disruptive events

    New research shows that cities with bad traffic under normal conditions may actually be more efficient at handling adverse events, like accidents and storms. Conversely, some cities with typically low traffic congestion become severely backed-up under the pressure of these disruptive scenarios. Efficiency refers to the average time delay a commuter would face annually due to traffic. Resilience is the ability of road networks to absorb adverse events that fall outside normal daily traffic patterns.

  • DisastersNew method to assess damage from natural disasters

    Awesome. Amazing. Incredible. Unbelievable. Spectacular. These words aptly describe what is left following any natural disaster, whether it’s an earthquake, tornado, hurricane or any other occurrence where homes, buildings or infrastructure are destroyed and lives are turned upside down. However, these words are not the words the people whose lives have been permanently changed want to hear from anyone in their town assisting with the recovery efforts, or studying the effects of an event, not when it comes to discussing what is left of their homes and businesses, especially while piles of debris line the streets waiting to be cleared. Researchers offer a way to measure debris volume using drones, then develop an information-based model to determine the cost of cleanup.

  • ResilienceGulf Coast universities team up to address hurricane resilience

    A new multi-institution research center will focus on helping the Gulf coast do better at preparing for and mitigating the damage and loss of lives from hurricanes and other severe storms. The Hurricane Resilience Research Institute (HuRRI) draws upon the strengths of its seven participating universities, from flood mitigation and hurricane modeling to public policy.

  • DisastersDisaster zones could soon be salvaged by teams of smart devices – here’s how

    By Emma Hart and Jeremy Pitt

    We will remember 2017 as an appalling year for natural disasters. It comes months after the UN’s head of disaster planning warned that the world is not adequately preparing for disasters. This, he said, risks “inconceivably bad” consequences as climate change makes disasters more frequent and severe. In such circumstances, modern technologies like smartphones, sensors and drones could help enormously, particularly if we can get them to act like an intelligent network. We recently outlined how these three strands from political theory, social science, and biology could be brought together to develop a new paradigm for complex device networks. We see encouraging signs that such thinking is starting to catch on among researchers. These ideas should enable us to develop new approaches that will underpin and enhance a wide variety of human activities – not least when the next disaster strikes. It might even mitigate the effects of climate change, making us better at foreseeing catastrophes and taking steps to avert them.

  • ResilienceRisk management strategies to help communities deal with earthquakes

    As much as humanity tries, the attempt to avoid natural disasters sometimes seems almost futile. Be it a tornado, hurricane, earthquake or wildfire, everyone, at some point, will likely be affected by the results of a natural disaster. But the task of the people in each instance of a disaster is to return to a sense of normalcy, to get back to living life as closely to how they had lived before the natural disaster occurred. To do that means dependency on the infrastructure of their community, where the resumption of interrupted electrical power or the water supply is crucial to the recovery efforts. How quickly communities are able to become operational is directly proportional to the strength of the infrastructure in that community and the efficiency of the risk management plan in place designed to deal with such disasters.