Resilience / Recovery | Homeland Security Newswire

  • New 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.

  • Gulf 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.

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

    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.

  • Risk 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.

  • Evacuating a nuclear disaster area is often a waste of time and money, says study

    Over 110,000 people were moved from their homes following the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan in March 2011. Another 50,000 left of their own will, and 85,000 had still not returned four-and-a-half years later. While this might seem like an obvious way of keeping people safe, my colleagues and I have just completed research that shows this kind of mass evacuation is unnecessary, and can even do more harm than good. We calculated that the Fukushima evacuation extended the population’s average life expectancy by less than three months. The reality is that, in most cases, the risk from radiation exposure if tpeople stay in their homes is minimal. It is important that the precedents of Chernobyl and Fukushima do not establish mass relocation as the prime policy choice in the future, because this will benefit nobody.

  • Restoring wireless communications to Puerto Rico and remote, disaster-struck areas

    According to a Federal Communications Commission status report issued last week following a survey of Hurricane Maria damage, nearly 50 percent of Puerto Rico’s cell sites remain out of service, with many counties operating at less than 25 percent of full service. Daniel Bliss, director of the Center for Wireless Information Systems and Computational Architectures (WISCA) at Arizona State University, offers insights about building a wireless infrastructure with the capacity to provide immediate, ongoing communications access during emergency situations.

  • Rethinking the role of the private sector in disaster relief

    Natural disasters have filled the news in recent months, occurring so frequently that they seem to intimate apocalypse: wildfires, earthquakes, hurricanes. Global damages from disaster continue apace—currently pegged between $250-300 billion per year> But as national and international media coverage of these events recedes, the local effects persist—often for years. Small businesses, which account for the vast majority of enterprises in the U.S. and employ half of the private-sector workforce, are particularly vulnerable when disaster strikes

  • AI, citizen science, disaster response combine to help Hurricane Irma’s victims

    A highly unusual collaboration between information engineers at Oxford, the Zooniverse citizen science platform, and international disaster response organization Rescue Global is enabling a rapid and effective response to Hurricane Irma. The project draws on the power of the Zooniverse, the world’s largest and most popular people-powered research platform, to work with volunteers and crowd source the data needed to understand Irma’s path of destruction and the damage caused.

  • Examining NYC storm surge infrastructure resilience

    With the recent Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and now Maria, which ravaged much of Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico, as well as Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy, from which NYC infrastructure is still recovering, it has become clear that addressing threats to infrastructure is critical to keeping our communities safe, functional, and healthy. Storm surge has emerged as one of the most destructive forces on infrastructure, especially interconnected structures in cities.

  • Designing a post-Harvey Houston for the future

    Being honest about the extent and urgency of the Houston-Galveston region’s flooding problem will not harm the community but will form the basis for recovery, according to a paper by an engineering and environmental expert. “Denying fundamental truths and moving forward with business as usual will be the economic death knell for the Houston region,” Rice University’s Jim Blackburn wrote in a paper highlighting fifteen policies and actions that are meant to initiate a conversation about designing a Houston for the future. “And make no mistake about it — how we respond to this horrible reality will determine the economic future of our region.”

  • What lessons will Houston-area officials learn from Harvey? History gives us a clue

    As Houston begins to recover from Harvey, a growing chorus of voices is calling for big policy changes to reduce flood damage from future disasters. Local officials haven’t said much about what they might pursue, but history offers some clues.

  • North Korea threatens EMP attack on U.S.

    North Korea’s relentless march toward acquiring the capability to place a hydrogen bomb on top of an ICBM will soon pose a threat to all major U.S. cities. There is another threat that marrying of a hydrogen bomb to a powerful rocket poses: An EMP threat. The North Koreans could launch a missile into the upper atmosphere, then detonate a high-yield hydrogen bomb in space in order to generate an electromagnetic pulse, or EMP, which would shut down the U.S. power grid and damage electrical devices. Experts testifying before the Congressional EMP Commission said that in the event of a massive EMP attack on the United States using multiple high-yield warheads, around 90 percent of the American population would be dead after eighteen months due to famine, disease, and societal breakdown.

  • Climate change, infrastructure, and the economic impacts of Hurricane Harvey

    Houston, the fourth largest city in the nation with an economy the size of Sweden, and many other cities and towns in southeastern Texas have been devastated by the torrential rains and flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey. Estimates put total rainfall in some areas as high as 52 inches, shattering the record for highest rainfall from a single storm in the continental United States. Stanford experts comment on how climate change and infrastructure planning contribute to the severity of impacts from extreme weather events like Hurricane Harvey.

  • What Hurricane Harvey says about risk, climate and resilience

    The risks we face from disasters depend on three factors: hazard, exposure, and vulnerability. Despite the politicized discourse that suggests that the science is somehow a matter of opinion rather than fact, we are incredibly vulnerable to natural disasters – disasters that are increasingly being amplified in a warming world. What sensible, pragmatic, bipartisan steps can we take to increase our resilience to risks that a disaster like Hurricane Harvey represents? First and foremost, we should reduce our exposure and build resilience to the hazards we already face today. We can’t continue building in places that we know will flood. We need to build and modernize infrastructure to make our water management systems more resilient to both floods and droughts. Ultimately, though, even these practical steps may not be enough. In a changing climate, building capacity and resilience to cope with today’s risks leave us unprepared for future extremes. That’s why, in order to reduce the risk of disasters both here and abroad, we need to minimize the climate change that is turbocharging these events. Hurricane Harvey exemplifies the risks we all face – and a more dangerous future if we don’t take actions now. More people and vulnerable infrastructure exposed to more frequent and intense hazards equals even greater risk for us in the future. The time to rethink the equation is now.

  • Finding better routes for relief supplies to disaster sites like Houston

    Harvey’s trail of destruction through southern Texas this week is drawing attention to the difficulty of providing relief services in a place where roads, ports, and airports are heavily damaged, if not destroyed. One expert uses mathematical modeling and high-powered computing to develop quicker, more efficient ways of moving something from one place to another. “Commercial supply chains are focused on quality and profitability,” she says. “Humanitarian supply chains are focused on minimizing loss of life and suffering, and distribution is focused on equity and fairness much more than in commercial applications.”