• Social media helps build a sense of community in the aftermath of disaster

    After natural disasters communities rely heavily on local governments to provide the necessary resources and information to respond to such disasters, but these approaches are not well equipped to meeting individual needs. As a complement to traditional methods, social media can provide a more personalized resource as well as fostering a sense of community in response to the crisis.

  • Optimizing choice of post-disaster recovery options by analyzing entire cities

    Civic leaders and engineers are typically faced with a very large number of possible recovery options in the aftermath of a major catastrophic event, such as a hurricane or an earthquake. “If you are trying to solve a problem that has, say, ten possible outcomes — you can probably find a way to figure out which one is optimal; [b]ut what if the possible solutions number as high as 10 to the 120th power?” ask researchers. They have developed a versatile and novel technique which is the first to factor in so many elements, demonstrating its effectiveness on transportation network recovery in imagined post-earthquake San Diego.

  • Suburban sprawl and poor preparation worsened flood damage in Louisiana

    The proximate cause of this month’s extraordinary flooding in southeast Louisiana was a slow-moving storm system that dropped up to two feet of rain in the upper reaches of the Amite and Comite river basins, which drain southern Mississippi and flow into Lake Pontchartrain. There are parallels between the damage of current flooding and the damage caused by Katrina. In both cases, human decisions magnified the consequences of extreme natural events. Planning and permitting enabled development in areas that had experienced repeat floods, and agencies had failed to complete projects designed to mitigate flood damage before the storms hit. If there is one lesson we have learned about floods, it is that records are made to be broken. So in addition to planning for the last flood, we need to anticipate higher water than our current benchmarks.

  • Germany to unveil a civil defense plan calling on citizens to stockpile food, water

    The German government will tell citizens to stockpile food and water in their homes in order to prepare for a terror attack or catastrophe. The German cabinet will on Wednesday debate an Interior Ministry report, called the “Concept for Civil Defense,” which, among other things will require the population to stockpile enough food ten days and water for five days.

  • NIST leads federal effort to save lives, property from windstorms

    Congress recently designated NIST to be the lead agency for the National Windstorm Impact Reduction Program (NWIRP). In one of its first actions as lead agency, NIST has announced in the Federal Register that it is establishing a panel of external experts to “provide advice on windstorm impact reduction and represent related scientific, architectural and engineering disciplines.”

  • Lessons learned from the U.S.-Canada cross-border experiment

    A tornado has just devastated a community on the border between the United States and Canada. Paramedics scramble to bring patients from over-crowded hospitals across the border. Communication blackouts and downed trees force ambulances to weave their way through blowing debris, fallen electrical lines, and car wrecks. The time for a routine trip from the injury site to the hospital has now tripled. While this did not really happen, it was the focus in April when the DHS S&T and several Canadian government agencies collaborated on a cross-border experiment with a focus on preparing emergency responders for this type of scenario.

  • Colorado county adopts NIST community resilience guidelines

    The Boulder County Collaborative, a partnership of Boulder County, Colorado, communities formed in response to the catastrophic floods that struck the region in September 2013, has used the NIST Community Resilience Planning Guide for Buildings and Infrastructure Systems to develop and adopt its own resilience design performance standard for community facilities and infrastructure systems.

  • New USGS models help predict storm effects on beaches

    As the 2016 hurricane season opens, weather forecasters, emergency managers and coastal residents have access to tools developed by the USGS which predict, more precisely than ever, where beach erosion and beachfront flooding will take place during hurricanes and other storms.

  • Improving national resiliency: Joplin tornado 5th anniversary

    Disaster struck Joplin, Missouri, on 22 May 2011, when the deadliest and costliest single tornado in U.S. history left a 22-mile long path of destruction. The storm killed 161 people, destroyed some 8,000 structures, and left $2.8 billion in damages in its wake. In the five years since the tragedy, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has led the effort to learn from the devastation and make improvements based on those lessons so that communities nationwide can become more resilient to tornadoes, significantly reducing both deaths and property damage.

  • “G-Science” academies call for strengthening global disaster resilience

    In the decade between 2005 and 2014, more than 6,000 natural and technological disasters occurred around the world, killing more than 0.8 million people, displacing millions more, and costing more than $1 trillion. Losses due to disasters are increasing in both developed and developing countries. Human factors that increase exposure and vulnerability, such as poverty, rapid population growth, disorderly urbanization, corruption, conflict and changes in land use, poor infrastructure including non-engineered housing, together with effects of climate change on weather patterns with increased extreme events, aggravate the negative consequences of natural and technological hazards.

  • Tools to help communities predict, cope with floods

    Anticipation and preparedness of large-scale flood events play a key role in mitigating their impacts and optimizing the strategic planning of water resources. Although many countries have well-established systems for river monitoring and early flood warning, an increasing number of inhabitants are affected by floods every year. The Global Flood Awareness System (GloFAS) has been set up providing an overview on upcoming flooding in large world river basins.

  • Evaluating investments in community resilience

    Communities weighing choices for capital improvement projects intended to improve their resilience to severe weather, wildfires, earthquakes, or other types of hazards now have a new guide to help them sort through the costs and benefits of each when deciding which investment is best for their particular circumstances. A new NIST report details steps for evaluating the “economic ramifications” of contemplated resilience investments as well as the option of maintaining the status quo.

  • Terror attacks in Paris and California expose modern society’s lack of resilience

    Our complex global society lacks resilience. The root cause of our vulnerability is the structure of the global economy: highly interconnected, complex, and filled with turbulence. Major disasters can occur unexpectedly, and even minor incidents can cascade into significant human and financial losses. Emerging pressures such as climate change and urbanization will only intensify the potential for extreme events and severe disruptions. Risk management makes sense in a stable environment with predictable events, but in today’s more complex risk landscape — the new normal — it is inadequate for dealing with fast-moving, unfamiliar threats that may cascade into disasters. The good news is that brittleness is not inevitable. It is a fundamental design flaw. Resilience — the capacity to survive, adapt, and flourish in the face of disruptive change — is a basic characteristic of all living systems, from individual creatures to entire ecosystems. In this age of turbulence, resilience has become a prerequisite for continued prosperity.

  • First code improvements based on NIST Joplin tornado study adopted

    Protecting schools and their associated high-occupancy buildings from the most violent tornadoes is the goal of the first approved building code changes based on recommendations from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) technical investigation into the impacts of the deadly tornado that struck Joplin, Missouri, on 22 May 2011. The new changes, approved at a recent meeting of the International Code Council (ICC), apply to the nation’s most tornado-prone regions.

  • Blitz spirit needed to meet challenges like climate change: Dr. Hugh Hunt

    Today’s engineers will need the kind of drive and determination shown by the great wartime innovators such as Sir Barnes Wallis and Sir Frank Whittle if they are to respond effectively to challenges such as climate change, Dr. Hugh Hunt told the Royal Academy of Engineering on Tuesday. Hunt compared today’s challenge of adapting to future climate change with the imperative to develop new technologies to tip the balance of military capability in favor of the Allies during the Second World War.