Abstracts and Responses to Prompts
On this page, you will find the research abstracts and the researchers’ responses to one of the four guiding prompts associated with the 2018 Researchers Meeting.
The abstracts are organized alphabetically by the last name of the first author. You will also find the plenary or concurrent session number linked below the list of authors, so that you can connect the abstract and prompt response to the meeting schedule.
Economic Analysis of Mitigation Investments Tested in Hurricane Harvey
Flooding during tropical storms and hurricanes can be devastating to healthcare facilities, coming at the time when medical assistance is most needed. For example, Tropical Storm Allison in 2001 devastated Texas Medical Center (TMC) and caused over 1,000 patients to be evacuated, closed hospitals, and caused $2 billion in infrastructure damage. Two major flood mitigation projects were undertaken following Tropical Storm Allison to mitigate future flood damage. Hurricane Harvey in 2017 was the first major test of these mitigation efforts. Although floodwaters were 150 percent higher, there was minimal flood damage to TMC, and facilities remained open. We calculated the return on investment of two major mitigation efforts: Improvements to the Brays Bayou resulted in a 21.9-fold return on investment, and installation of submarine-style waterproof doors at TMC resulted in a 400-fold return on investment. Importantly, these savings only considered damage prevented to physical infrastructure, and were calculated for a single event, even though both efforts will continue to function for any future flooding events. We further identified 91 healthcare facilities in Harris County floodplains that may benefit from similar mitigation investments.
Prompt 4: How can data sharing and archiving capabilities be enhanced to ensure the greatest scientific impact?
We conducted our research project explicitly to impact mitigation rebuilding after Hurricane Harvey. When the goal of research is to inform operational decision-making, it is essential to share data not only as broadly as possible, but also in a targeted manner with those capable of implementing research results. In our case, this meant the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Texas state officials overseeing the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program, as well as the administrators of both public and private hospitals. It was, therefore, critical to examine not only peer-reviewed publications, but also options to engage policy makers and emergency managers. This ensures the greatest scientific and operational impacts.
Performing the Swarm: Wading through Homeland Security Regimes in the Context of Hurricane Harvey
This research investigates the unfolding experience of ‘swarming,’ or collective, emergent action, in the context of Hurricane Harvey. The work is founded on an argument that disaster preparedness and response, as presently constructed, represents a problematic misunderstanding of publics to negotiate disaster in autonomous ways (otherwise known as ‘resilience’). We balance experiences as both citizen responders during the hurricane, and as members of homeland security institutions, with that of our involvement in scholarly research. The paper represents in-depth, ongoing work consisting of interview, observational, and other data analyzed both individually and collaboratively with a range of participants, as we engage a co-autoethnography and participatory action research. Our intellectual contribution, as well as practical impact, is to trace tools and technologies used in the moment and over time to facilitate contextualized, situated understandings of disaster. We also detail socio-technical constructions of disasters past, present, and future, and the translation of these understandings to human action. Findings identify how swarming unfolds, but also becomes neglected within institutional homeland security regimes to offer new insights into improved management of disasters.
Prompt 3: Has your research contributed to innovative data collection strategies? If so, please elaborate.
This research is a combination of traditional ethnography, autoethnography, and participatory action research. We also co-construct our findings together in what we are calling co-autoethnography. This is an entirely new approach to emic research, especially in the field of disaster studies. We chart the benefits and challenges of such work in our presentation.
Building Research Software Infrastructure to Prevent Disasters like Hurricane Maria
After every natural disaster, it is difficult to answer elementary questions on how to provide high quality water supplies and health services. There is no existing digital infrastructure to scientifically determine the hurricane impact on drinking water quality, the severity of a hazard to human health, or baseline data on the sophistication, connectivity, and operations of the distributed physical and related digital infrastructure systems. We test data publication mechanisms after Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico to understand risks to human health by assessing the spatial and temporal presence of waterborne pathogens in multiple types of systems, demonstrating usability of the Consortium of Universities for the Advancement of Hydrologic Science, Inc. (CUAHSI) HydroShare system as a clearinghouse for data related to Hurricanes Maria, Harvey, and Irma, and developing a prototype cyberinfrastructure to assess environmental and public health impacts. Our resulting archive and research software engineering practices provide a prototype cyberinfrastructure system for researchers to study natural disasters.
Prompt 4: How can data sharing and archiving capabilities be enhanced to ensure the greatest scientific impact?
Recovery efforts from natural disasters can be more efficient with data-driven information on current needs and future risks. We advance open-source software infrastructure to support scientific investigation and data-driven decision making with a data sharing system using a water quality assessment developed to investigate post-Hurricane Maria drinking water contamination in Puerto Rico. One limitation to effective disaster response is easy and rapid access to diverse information about available resources and maps of community resource needs and risks. Research products are made Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, and Reproducible (FAIR) using HydroShare, a collaborative online sharing platform. Curating a central repository of assembled research data has the potential to greatly facilitate coordinated disaster responses of all types, with opportunities to improve planning, preparedness, and monitoring of the recovery process.
National Science Foundation INCLUDES: Minority SURGE Capacity in Disasters
The Minority Scholars from Under-Represented Groups in Engineering and the Social Sciences (SURGE) Capacity in Disasters pilot project focuses on the inclusion of minority scholars from science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) and social science fields to solve complex problems faced in the aftermath of disasters. SURGE, which is a National Science Foundation INCLUDES project, takes an interdisciplinary service-learning approach and is designed to increase the number of underrepresented minorities in STEM disciplines who are interested in hazards mitigation and disaster research. Increasing the involvement of qualified minorities will help reduce broader vulnerability concerns in marginalized communities and help advance scholarship through increasing diversity of thought, perspective, and problem-solving capabilities. SURGE creates a new and replicable model that addresses the diversity concerns in both STEM and disaster fields. Through the utilization of workshops, post disaster reconnaissance experiences, and a multifaceted mentorship program, SURGE will help contribute to resilience efforts in communities across the nation. This project will be of interest to policymakers, educators, and the general public.
Prompt 2: What has your research revealed regarding team formation, rapid reconnaissance research coordination, or interdisciplinary collaboration?
The National Science Foundation Minority SURGE project is designed to bring together racially and ethnically diverse teams of students and faculty mentors to learn about the history of disaster research, to prepare for rapid reconnaissance work, and to engage in boots on the ground research and service learning experiences. Although the SURGE project is still in its nascent stages, the inaugural group of SURGE mentees and the principal investigators on the project recently traveled to the U.S. Virgin Islands to learn about the early phases of recovery and to engage in community rebuilding experiences. This project has revealed the power and potential of bringing together students from diverse demographic and disciplinary backgrounds to inform disaster research and practice.
Advancing Understanding Through Post-Extreme Event Reconnaissance
Field observations are particularly important in geotechnical engineering because it is difficult to replicate in the laboratory the response of soil deposits built by nature over thousands of years. Detailed mapping and surveying of damaged and undamaged areas provides the data for the well-documented case histories that drive the development of many of our design procedures. Thus, documenting key insights from extreme events advances research and practice. This is a primary goal of the National Science Foundation-sponsored Geotechnical Extreme Events Reconnaissance (GEER) Association.
Prompt 1: What challenges or opportunities have you identified in terms of conducting rapid reconnaissance research?
New technologies are being employed by National Science Foundation-sponsored Geotechnical Extreme Events Reconnaissance (GEER) teams to capture ground deformation and its effects. These technologies include light detection and ranging, Structure-from-Motion, and unmanned aerial vehicles. New, unanticipated observations from major events often define alternative research directions. As an example, the results of recent studies of liquefaction of soils with a significant amount of fines have been largely motivated by observations documented by GEER reconnaissance efforts. Important advancements are possible through research of extreme events if their effects are captured and shared effectively.
Staying Above Water: Educational Outcomes of College Students During the 2016 Louisiana Flood
This study examined college students’ perspectives on how the August 2016 flood in Louisiana affected their educational experiences at four-year universities. The data are derived from qualitative interviews completed six to eight months following the flood with 32 college students who were either affected personally or who had family members who experienced flooding. The students described numerous ways that the flood affected their educational experience that have yet to be described in the academic literature, including attendance, course schedule changes, grade fluctuations, and motivation for schooling. Results show that these impacts varied, in accordance with socioeconomic status, as well as family connectivity. However, all students expressed changes in motivation, which became a consistent theme affecting their educational experiences. This research indicates a need for further studies on college students following a disaster because students are an underrepresented vulnerable population and occupy a socially constructed space between childhood and traditional adulthood.
Prompt 1: What challenges or opportunities have you identified in terms of conducting rapid reconnaissance research?
This research was an extension of a larger project from an undergraduate sociology of disaster class. During the class, we trained the undergraduate students in institutional review board protocols, research ethics, and qualitative methods. Following the training process, we used the undergraduates' social networks, and gained access to other college students who were enrolled during the 2016 Louisiana Flood. Students interviewed two of their friends who were affected by the flood, and used snowball sampling to find more participants. By utilizing the social networks of undergraduate students, we were able to gain a wide range of responses from a sample that was demographically diverse. Because the class was an elective, some students did not participate fully in the assignment. We collected additional interviews using snowball sampling through the primary researcher's social networks, the co-author's undergraduate courses, and other undergraduate sociology courses offered during the Fall 2017 semester. Future research using undergrads to collect interviews may divide the tasks among the students, rather than having all students conduct two interviews.
Decision-Making Methods as a Window into Risk Perception and Interdependencies
In our collaborative National Science Foundation Rapid Response Research project titled “How Decision-Making About Risk and Interdependencies Impact Well-Being: A Baseline Study of Communities Affected by Hurricane Harvey,” researchers employ decision-making methods to interview residents impacted by Hurricane Harvey across six counties in southeastern Texas. How do people make decisions when faced with rebuilding their lives and livelihoods following a major disaster? What sorts of interdependencies shape those choices? Do perceptions of risk shift over time and over the course of decisions? This presentation considers these kinds of decision-making processes related to risk and interdependencies situated within stories of recovery and overall well-being. Browne will present preliminary data from interviews with 30 Hurricane Harvey survivors in southeastern Texas across urban, rural, and peri-rural communities. She will discuss methodology and early findings.
Prompt 3: Has your research contributed to innovative data collection strategies? If so, please elaborate.
We adapt decision-making methods commonly used in agricultural literature by using complexity theory to treat decisions as complex assemblages of factors. This approach allows us to explain the process of disaster recovery as a constellation of influences that shape decisions of survivors as they navigate social and biological interdependencies and risk. This form of data gathering offers a productive and innovative way to identify decision influences situated within stories of recovery and overall well-being. In October, November, January, March, and June 2018, researchers made fieldwork trips to the area, which includes six counties ranging from coastal to inland, as far west as Rockport and as far east as the Beaumont area east of Houston. This research documents a wide range of impact scenarios and considers how variations in geography and risk features interact with these decisions to impact recovery outcomes and well-being.
Understanding Vulnerability and Adaptive Capacity to Large-Scale Power Failure in the United States
The risk of U.S. electrical grid failure is growing. We interviewed 42 households in Highlands and Orange Counties, Florida, as an empirical case study of household resilience to large-scale power failure following Hurricane Irma in fall 2017. Using content analysis and ordinal regression, we determined that residents relied on technical, social, and intellectual resources to prepare for, mitigate, and recover from the power failure event. Respondents with fewer resources demonstrated less resilience overall, suffering more during the event, and experiencing more barriers during recovery. In addition, respondents of lower socioeconomic status self-reported higher levels of stress and lower levels of agency and pathways thinking after the storm, possibly due to their constrained adaptive capacities. Understanding the patterns and specific mechanisms that lead to differential outcomes in hazardscapes that include power failure may help address gaps in preparedness and response efforts that often leave those in most need at highest risk.
Prompt 3: Has your research contributed to innovative data collection strategies? If so, please elaborate.
Due to the fast deployment and low-cost nature of our study, we combined open- and closed-ended measurements in order to maximize both the fidelity and the utility of our data. We specifically employed two novel methods that enhanced our work. First, we imputed interview insights into mobile survey software while conducting the interviews “live” so that key information could be immediately accessed in tabular form following each conversation. Second, we administered closed-ended, self-reported psychological questionnaires before every interview. The use of psychometric measures in hazards research is fundamentally new, and may allow us to better understand the specific mechanistic pathways that lead from vulnerability indicators (e.g., socioeconomic status or age) to negative outcomes, through psychological disposition. Better understanding these vulnerability pathways, as well as sociologically how structural variables influence psychology and agency to create disparate outcomes, is a looming research need.
Distribution of Metals and Microbial Diversity in Hurricane Harvey Floodwater Remnants in Greater Houston
We hypothesized that runoff from Hurricane Harvey, the most extreme rain event in our country’s history, mobilized contaminants, including metals and microorganisms. Forty grab samples were collected from different locations, mainly from southwestern Houston, representing a variety of (sub)urban land use patterns, including residential, industrial, commercial, educational, and religious activities. All samples were first filtered through sterile 0.22 micrometer membrane filters. Fifty representative, transition, and rare earth elements and dissolved organic carbon were analyzed in the filtrate. Iron (Fe), strontium (Sr), and barium (Ba) were moderately elevated, regardless of land usage. Isolated strong peaks in potassium (K), lithium (Li), and aresenic (As) may be the result of landscaping and construction materials. Additionally, DNA was extracted from 12 filters using a bead beating protocol. The microbial community composition was determined using 16S ribosomal RNA next-generation sequencing. Results showed the variation of relative abundances of bacterial community composition across the different sampling locations.
Prompt 1: What challenges or opportunities have you identified in terms of conducting rapid reconnaissance research?
Floodwaters from Hurricane Harvey affected over 70 percent of Harris County alone, isolating many areas of the city of Houston and its suburbs. In gathering our samples, it was necessary to act quickly in order to obtain data for this specific extreme rain event. Access to affected areas was our primary problem. The day after the storm subsided, lab members were traveling across the suburbs of Houston to gather grab samples. However, we faced challenges from the nature of the floodwaters and in the interest of safety; certain areas were impassable or even restricted by law enforcement officers. We resorted to contacting personal friends and colleagues, including affected homeowners, to provide water samples. In most cases, these were collected simply using available plastic containers (e.g., commercial water bottles), which were not necessarily well-suited for water quality sampling.
A Study on Blood Donation and Management Systems in Asia
Post-disaster blood demand and supply surges often lead to undesirable situations, such as delivery delays (e.g., the events of September 11, 2001) and a waste of donated blood (e.g., 2008 Wenchuan earthquake). However, research on blood donation and management has focused on military conflicts and the supply side (e.g., psycho-social aspects of blood donation). We contribute to this domain of research by examining the end-to-end chain, starting from upstream donor management to downstream hospital usage. Our study focuses on two scenarios, namely routine emergencies and disasters, and uses two lenses, namely, operations and organizational-institutional. With Asia rapidly urbanizing and becoming the most disaster-prone region globally, we study three urban settings located in the region. Our study uses a mixed method approach, with qualitative (e.g., archives, interviews, field observation) and quantitative (e.g., modeling and simulations) approaches. We will present our preliminary findings from our ongoing fieldwork on a Southeast Asian city and highlight the potential contribution from our comparative and multidisciplinary approach.
Our research is a collaboration between operations management and organizational and institutional researchers, which leads to a novel interplay of data collection methods, both qualitative and quantitative. In the field, interviews and field observations—methods more associated with qualitative and organizational and institutional studies—elicit the logic, motivation, and context that provide the building blocks (e.g., business rules) for the optimization models and simulations that quantitative methods typically use in operations management studies. In turn, the results become the means for us to re-engage practitioners for more in-depth probes and fieldwork. This leads us to sample more expert practitioners, access more diverse sites (e.g., blood banks, clinics, and hospitals at national, regional, and community levels), and create more granular archives (e.g., operational data and reports of a blood bank). This iterative cycle helps us build a richer picture of the blood donation and management system of a specific locale.
Emergency Managers Attitudes About Communication of Hazard Vulnerability by Monuments and Historical Markers
Historical markers, monuments to disaster victims, and flood levels painted on structures are seen in many communities. The erection of such markers and other commemorative events are often part of the recovery process following a major disaster. Social scientists have noted how such activities promote both personal and community recovery—physically, emotionally, socially, and economically. This paper explores the effectiveness of historical markers, monuments, and flood level indicators in communicating hazard vulnerability to residents and visitors long after the event. A survey of Wisconsin’s 72 county emergency management directors regarding their awareness of the markers and their use, or potential use, in communicating hazard vulnerability indicates divergent knowledge and opinions, ranging from approval to skepticism. Managers in counties with such markers were much more likely to indicate that they were “very effective” in enhancing community awareness of hazards and appropriate responses.
Our data collection technique is somewhat innovative in the survey of emergency management directors regarding the use of historical markers and monuments to communicate hazard risk information, in that it couples a relatively standard survey with the provision of information regarding how other communities disseminate hazards information. Thus, the survey serves to provide the researcher with data, while simultaneously educating the survey respondents regarding an approach to hazard risk communication that has been overlooked in many jurisdictions.
North Carolina Educator Perceptions of Hurricane Impact and School Responses
This study will provide an understanding of the current strategies employed to support disaster recovery in schools and their effectiveness as judged by school personnel. The ultimate goal of this study is to provide research-based guidance to educators and policymakers on which responses are associated with the best outcomes for students. This project studies areas affected by Hurricane Harvey (August 2017) and Hurricane Matthew (October 2016) by addressing three research questions relevant to school recovery: What impacts did the storms have?; How did schools respond to support students?; and How successful were those responses? The research team conducted interviews, focus groups, and surveys with personnel from schools, districts, and state agencies in a sample of 20 districts in Texas and North Carolina that were impacted by the hurricanes. Early results suggest that schools in North Carolina had little evidence to inform their recovery efforts after Hurricane Matthew.
The largest challenge my team has faced is gaining access to school districts directly after a natural disaster. In our study, we are interested in investigating how school districts responded to Hurricanes Harvey (Texas) and Matthew (North Carolina). We anticipated encountering difficulty with gaining access to school districts in North Carolina, since Hurricane Matthew made landfall over one year ago. We also assumed school districts in Texas would readily grant us access given the recent impact of Hurricane Harvey. In reality, we encountered little to no issues with gaining access to North Carolina districts and received significant obstacles with accessing Texas districts. Administrators in Texas agreed that the recent storm provided them with an abundance of activities; however, none accounted for participating in a research study. This challenge has forced us to re-focus on building trust with school districts that were recently impacted by a hurricane to improve access.
Pets, Privilege, and Getting the Whole Story: Lessons Learned through Research on Companion Animal Evacuations for 2017 Disasters
Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, and the Santa Rosa wildfires, provided ample opportunities to learn about the ways in which people make decisions surrounding pets and evacuation. Through mixed methods data collection, we targeted two key groups: evacuees and program coordinators. Evacuees for this project are people who either left or considered leaving because of the disasters. We conducted face-to-face and web-based data collection for both of these target groups. Preliminary results indicate that evacuees place a strong emphasis on emotions such as regret, grief, and stress associated with being separated from their animals. Furthermore, stress is linked to logistics and supplies (e.g., having space, having a kennel, and moving the animal safely from place to place). For program coordinators, pet overpopulation is seen as linked to the overall animal care ecosystem and directly impacts the ways in which the evacuation will unfold for animals and their humans.
There are two key challenges and two key opportunities we identified in the preliminary analyses. The challenges are: accessing transient and vulnerable populations with companion animals and deciding the most effective way to disseminate policy recommendations to program coordinators. These elements are linked to ongoing communication with stakeholders who focus on different phases of hazard and companion animal issues. The opportunities are: identifying themes outside the scope of the research questions that are useful for other policy recommendations (e.g., we found that pet reunification can be a powerful catalyst for community trap, neuter, and return (TNR), and the power of utilizing participant social capital for data collection. We argue that this goes beyond typical “snowball” sampling techniques because of the way that animal rescue groups network and interact through various forums, such as social media.
Resilience Breaking Points: Capacity, Communication, and Coordination of Work During and After Disasters
This project examines how organizations and businesses contribute to community resilience through the work they do in order to minimize interruptions caused by disaster. Field research has been ongoing since late September 2017 in Houston, following the flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey. For this research, we have recruited businesses and organizations to facilitate site visit observations, documented collection and analysis, and conducted interviews with owners, leaders, and human resources managers. We aim to triangulate informant interviews with internal documents to assess resilience as an organizing and communicating process.
This work is single-disciplinary, making aspects of the project straightforward. However, we’ve encountered challenges for successful informant and organizational recruitment. In past studies that took place in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and in coastal New Jersey after Superstorm Sandy, we found that informants would not complete close ended surveys. Instead, they were very motivated to “tell their story,” providing rich, detailed accounts of the work they did throughout the disaster. To improve recall in such interviews, one effective strategy we’ve utilized is to have the informants review old emails, texts, memos, calendars, schedules, and task lists. This exercise also facilitates their willingness to share such information. We are also generating innovative approaches to sharable archived data. One of the biggest challenges with such data is redacting identities and business names, as promised to our informants.
Transportable Energy Storage for Enhancing Power Grid Resiliency to Natural Disasters
We develop and validate the concept of mobile energy storage (ES) units that can provide backup flexibility to power grids. Using the real-life predictions and ex post data from Hurricane Harvey, we designed a data-driven approach to enable the optimal routing, reconfiguration, and control of mobile ES units to enhance power grid resiliency. We also developed a new electrochemical ES mechanism that is capable of generating two transportable energy carriers: redox-active species (such as those used on redox flow batteries) and hydrogen (e.g., available in refineries along the U.S. Gulf Coast). Our results demonstrate that such technologies are effective to overcome the effects of natural disasters.
Our work to develop and validate the concept of mobile energy storage units that can provide backup flexibility to power grids enhanced the flexibility of infrastructure planners to preventatively mitigate the effects of natural disasters on the power grid integrity. Furthermore, we demonstrated that strategic allocation of transportable back resources (e.g., energy storage) can significantly improve post-disaster recovery.
The Automated Reconnaissance Image Organization Tool
With the frequency of recent hazard events and the ease with which an increasing number of images can be collected, data collected to document the consequences of various types of disasters is growing. To keep up with this data deluge, artificial intelligence and machine learning must be exploited to automate the processing of these unstructured image data. In response to this challenge, we have developed these capabilities and integrated them into the Automated Reconnaissance Image Organizer (ARIO). ARIO provides the data collector, from the field, the power to automatically organize all of the images collected to help make informed decisions. The tool has several built-in classifiers and executes quickly, requiring less than 0.5 seconds per image. The focus of this presentation will be on the development of ARIO, the lessons learned by using real image data from past missions, and how to access and use the tool.
Prompt 4: How can data sharing and archiving capabilities be enhanced to ensure the greatest scientific impact?
Despite the tremendous financial investments made in collecting valuable data about the post-event condition of our communities, current data repositories have several limitations. There is a need to overcome these limitations to greatly accelerate the use of these data to learn from hazards. For instance, searching across one, or several, data repositories is just not possible. Access to the image collections is typically restricted, except through a given portal interface. In addition, the images are rarely annotated and, when they are, there is a lack of consistency and ambiguous definitions. In addition, none of these repositories allow for the search of the visual contents of those images, and the analytic tools and capabilities needed are not available for researchers. Overall, a user must already know what she or he is looking for before searching for it. Only a limited portion of the data in the repositories are searchable for future reuse.
Wind-Induced Effects on Roof-to-Wall Connections of Residential Buildings
Hazardous wind events frequently occur in the United States. Hurricane Irma, which hit the southeastern coast in 2017, left a majority of damage concentrated on low-rise buildings. Roof-to-wall connections play an important role in the behavior of wood-frame buildings when exposed to wind-induced loadings. Wind actions on roof-to-wall connections have not been adequately estimated yet. An extensive, large-scale aerodynamic testing study is being conducted at the National Science Foundation Natural Hazard Engineering Research Infrastructure Wall of Wind Experimental Facility to investigate wind actions resulting from simulated hurricane winds on a gable wood frame building model with roof-to-wall connections. The study adopted a length scale of 1:4 and a velocity scale of 1:2. Load cells were mounted at the roof-to-wall connection level to measure the effective net wind forces. Also, internal pressures were measured using pressure taps. The model was tested under different wind speeds and directions varying from 0° to 315°. Results were compared to pressure coefficients recommended by the American Society of Civil Engineers 7 code for cases of Component and Cladding and Main Wind-Force Resisting System. Experimental results showed a better match with the ASCE loadings based on the Component and Cladding case.
A database of data and observations collected should be available to every researcher. This way, collaboration stemming from the need to develop the resiliency and sustainability of the built environment can be pursued efficiently. In addition, new trends in technology allow different sharing capabilities. A very powerful example is the DesignSafe initiative encouraged by the National Science Foundation.
Virtual Earthquake Reconnaissance: How it Can Support and Supplement Data Sharing and Boots on the Ground
The Earthquake Engineering Research Institute (EERI) is a multidisciplinary, international, nonprofit, technical society with a long history of deploying multidisciplinary teams after an earthquake through their Learning from Earthquakes (LFE) program. EERI members understand the need for streamlined information sharing after a damaging earthquake to assist with reconnaissance and research. This presentation covers EERI’s newly-founded Virtual Earthquake Reconnaissance Team (VERT) and the organization’s new earthquake clearinghouse web presence, and how the two work together to develop an efficient approach that provides targeted information to the earthquake science and engineering community on specific topics of interest. This partnership also informs decisions about how EERI should respond to an earthquake. VERT harnesses enthusiasm of motivated younger members to perform virtual post-earthquake reconnaissance. VERT members prepare teams for the field, provide crucial information to EERI before a decision is made to respond, and help teams post-process data upon returning from a reconnaissance trip.
Data sharing and archiving promote scientific impacts of earthquake reconnaissance and research through enhanced access to information. Earthquake reconnaissance requires extraordinary financial, time, and personnel resources. As more multidisciplinary reconnaissance teams are formed and actively engaged with communities during reconnaissance, the data that results from these trips provide both breadth and depth to reconnaissance topics. Data sharing and archiving provide opportunities for researchers around the world to build off of work and use the data to benchmark numerical analyses techniques. Access to this type of data also provides opportunities for cross-disciplinary research to demonstrate whole community impacts of the disaster and innovative pre-disaster mitigation and post-disaster recovery initiatives. The scientific impact of post-earthquake reconnaissance and data collection can have a real-life impact on communities around the world through data sharing and archiving.
Unveiling the Myths of Intra-Family Decision-Making in Hurricane Matthew Evacuations
Hurricane Matthew in 2016 demonstrated how families responded to adverse impacts and, in particular, how they evacuated and what factors influenced their decisions to evacuate. There are a great deal of empirical studies investigating how households make hurricane evacuation decisions. However, those studies considered each household as a decision-making unit and, thus, largely failed to capture how differences within families could affect decision-making. By conducting a massive mail survey with households in the metropolitan area of Jacksonville, Florida, we explored how previously disconnected bodies of literature—from disciplines including emergency management, family science, transportation logistics, and others—can be synthesized to address this gap in the research. We proposed an updated Protective Action Decision Model, where previously neglected intra-family factors were added. Preliminary findings from the household survey implied significantly different perceptions between two household members on adequate financial resources, power distribution, family relationship prioritization, equal access to and control over financial resources, and specialization in major decision-making.
Prompt 2: What has your research revealed regarding team formation, rapid reconnaissance research coordination, or interdisciplinary collaboration?
The household survey research was designed and conducted by a multidisciplinary team of transportation engineering, emergency management, and mass communication professionals. Survey instruments were integrated from an interdisciplinary intention that examined a holistic array of issues in understanding hurricane evacuation, including evacuation decision-making dynamics, household demographics, intra-family factors, social networks, information sources and characteristics, and evacuation logistics (e.g., timing, destination, mode, and routing). The team adopted a data/hypothesis-driven approach to structure the survey questionnaire so that a blended set of questions could comprehensively investigate hurricane evacuation behaviors at the individual and household levels.
Building a Cloud-Based Data Collaboratory for Hurricane Damage Assessment
Big spatial data acquisition and processing technologies are increasingly used for post-disaster assessment, generating large spatiotemporal datasets. Acquisition and analysis of these datasets offers tremendous opportunities for advancing natural hazards research. In spite of these great values, the vast size and complex processing requirements of these datasets make it challenging to effectively use them in hazard research. In this paper, we describe the progresses, challenges, and an envisioned data infrastructure for accelerated knowledge discovery from large disaster datasets. We use a National Science Foundation Geotechnical Extreme Events Reconnaissance-funded Hurricane Harvey study as a use case to characterize data integration and sharing needs. The preliminary findings are that federation and fusion of multi-sourced data can greatly facilitate damage assessment, content-based retrieval is key to efficient exploration of large disaster datasets, and cloud-based infrastructures provide promising capabilities in data archiving and sharing, but require more research on dedicated data analytics.
The federation and fusion of multi-sourced data can greatly facilitate damage assessment. In addition, content-based retrieval is key to efficient exploration of large disaster datasets. Cloud-based infrastructures provide promising capabilities in data archiving and sharing. However, more research is needed on dedicated data analytics.
Assessing the Impacts of Two Category 5 Hurricanes on the Water Quality of the U.S. Virgin Islands
The U.S. Virgin Islands were devastated by back-to-back Category 5 hurricanes in the summer of 2017. We carried out community surveys and water quality analysis on St. Thomas island three months after Hurricane Irma. The survey results showed that most of the residents (59 percent) were satisfied with governmental responses to managing water in the post-disaster period. However, less than 17 percent of the residents in the lower income group considered the water “safe” to drink. Microbial water quality analyses results showed the cistern samples contained diverse microbial populations. Microbial compositions in three of the cisterns had a relatively higher portion of Proteobacteria and higher salinity, implying cross contamination by coastal water. We are in the process of identifying members of these microbial populations that have pathogenic potential. These results will shed light on potential health risks associated with water supplies in the post-hurricane U.S. Virgin Islands.
The main challenge of conducting rapid reconnaissance research in an island community is accessibility. The U.S. Virgin Islands were cut off from the mainland immediately after two Category 5 hurricanes in 2017. Communication was paralyzed for months after the disaster. The airport was damaged, and limited flights were not resumed until a month later. Due to closed ports and customs delays, cargo was not reaching the islands within any reasonable time. There was no local transportation system, and roads were damaged by flood. We relied on an oceangoing research vessel to transport our field supplies to St. Thomas. Our field campaign was only possible because of project collaborator Dr. Kellogg’s intimate familiarity with St. Thomas and her network of family and friends on the island. We set up a field laboratory on a small charter boat and used a portable generator to provide electricity for field sample processing.
More Assets or Better Prepared? What Do You Mean by Community Resilience?
Resilience is a socially constructed concept and, thus, it's important to understand the public's perception of community resilience, especially among people living in high-risk areas. In this paper, we explore the correlations between perceived community resilience and livelihood assets and household preparedness activities. A 2018 questionnaire that collected survey data from 1,000 individuals in three villages in Weinan, Shanxi Province, China, was used for analysis. The perceived community resilience is measured by the Communities Advancing Resilience Toolkit (CART), and varied forms of livelihood capital (e.g., social, financial, human, natural, and physical) and household preparedness activities are covered. Linear regression analyses demonstrate that people with higher social capital and awareness preparedness would have significantly higher perceived degrees of community resilience, while the physical capital and material preparedness associations with perceived community resilience are not significant.
This presentation introduces data collection procedures and efforts linking disaster to higher education and service learning in our teaching and research practices. Service learning is an education method used in professional development and training in colleges and universities. It allows students to apply their knowledge and skills learned from the university in the services settings and helps students build their sense of civic responsibilities, with the enrichment of the capacity of communities. In this study, we developed an undergraduate course named “disaster service learning and nonprofit leadership development.” With the mentors’ help, the students and the college worked together with local nongovernmental and government agencies to conduct disaster education, service, and research in the selected communities. Data collected through these processes were used to write research papers. Moreover, risk reduction solutions and resources were provided to local communities to reduce risks and to increase their emergency preparedness and resilience.
Immediate Behavioral Response to the June 17, 2013, Flash Floods in Uttarakhand, North India
The 2013 Uttarakhand flash flood was such a surprise that the predominant sources of information for those at risk were environmental cues and, secondarily, peer warnings rather than official warnings. Of those who received warnings, few received information other than the identity of the threat. A survey of 316 survivors found that most people’s first response was to immediately evacuate, but some stayed for additional information, or to engage in evacuation preparations. Unfortunately, engaging in these behaviors delayed their final evacuations. Regression analyses revealed that immediate evacuation and evacuation delay were both predicted best by information search and positive affect, but correlation analyses indicated that a number of other models were also plausible. Final evacuation was best predicted by immediate evacuation and, to a significantly lesser extent, household togetherness. For this dependent variable also, correlation analyses indicated that a number of other variables were almost as predictive as household togetherness. The data from this event revealed some similarities but also some differences from other studies of rapid onset disasters, indicating that further research is needed to determine the relative importance of situational and cultural characteristics in producing the observed differences in household response to flash floods.
This study examined the associations between respondents' immediate responses and their later evacuation behaviors to a rapid onset flood emergency, which provides a clearer picture about households' behavioral responses in the period of an emergency.
Dynamics of Large-Scale Resettlement after Coastal Devastation: A Longitudinal Study of Communities in Tacloban, Philippines, after 2013 Typhoon Haiyan
As climate-induced disasters are increasingly causing displacement of large populations, understanding resettlement implications is a growing need. Because relevant studies require long-term observation in each unique setting, scholarly knowledge is still limited. This research targets coastal residents who resided in a zone that was designated no-build after Typhoon Haiyan, and explores differences in resettlement processes, livelihood changes, and future prospects of residents currently living in original neighborhoods and relocation sites. Since 2014, we conducted six sets of 40 semi-structured interviews in both the coastal and relocation sites over the three-year period, in addition to interviews with city officers to understand relocation progress. Observation explains that, first, timing of involvement in the relocation process made a difference in people’s current location; second, living in relocation sites is more complicated than original sites; and third, relocation became less favored among the target population, although they were initially attracted for safety and housing.
Prompt 2: What has your research revealed regarding team formation, rapid reconnaissance research coordination, or interdisciplinary collaboration?
This research is a part of a Rapid Reconnaissance Research project continuing five years after Typhoon Haiyan. The original team consisted of more than 40 researchers, mainly from Tohoku University, but also included researchers from the Philippines and the United Kingdom. Interdisciplinary research teams included hydraulic engineers, geologists, planners, architects, political scientists, informatics specialists, and medical doctors. Such a variety of specialists fostered a wide range of research outcomes, including hazard and damage assessment through mapping/satellite image processing; storm surge simulation warning and evacuation assessment; assessment of emerging medical threats; and housing, community, and societal dynamics. Having all specialists collaborating and working in the field at the same time was complicated due to scheduling, focus of interests, and levels of understanding on certain topics. In addition, having many specialists visiting the field at different times contributed to complications for local stakeholders.
Data Driven Post-Disaster Waste and Debris Volume Predictions Using a Smartphone Photogrammetry App and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles
In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, a significant volume of waste and debris was generated in Houston and Beaumont, Texas. The management of post-disaster debris is important because it contributes an estimated 25 percent to disaster management costs, can generate five to fifteen times the annual waste generation rates of the affected community, and specifically leads to the most federal funding being lost due to mismanagement. As a result, the Federal Emergency Management Agency will reimburse consulting companies for the costs of professional debris monitoring services. These companies deploy a state-of-the-art automated debris management system to electronically collect, store, and manage debris project data and information. However, estimates of waste volume are still qualitative. A National Science Foundation Rapid Response Research grant facilitated field visits to Beaumont to obtain records of waste debris weight, consultant monitoring tickets, and to explore the application of smartphones and unmanned aerial vehicles to quantify waste debris piles using photogrammetry techniques.
Our work responds to innovative data collection strategies for waste debris collection and disposal after extreme events. The current method for estimating waste debris volumes is purely qualitative (e.g., based on visual observations of an individual peering into a truck bed). This data is stored electronically by monitoring consultants. Landfills can also measure the tonnage of incoming trucks via printed tickets, but this rarely occurs because of the overwhelming number of incoming trucks. The data collection implemented through a National Science Foundation RAPID grant aimed to transform post-disaster management by exploring the use of smartphones and drones to automate waste volume quantification. Through image processing algorithms, the images are stitched together via photogrammetry and scaled using a reference object, thereby resulting in a three-dimensional rendition and an estimate of waste volume. These methods were implemented and compared in Beaumont, Texas, after Hurricane Harvey.
Fast Reconstruction of Flood Hydrographs in the Houston Metropolitan Area During Hurricane Harvey Based on Image Processing and In Situ Measurements
Hurricane Harvey led to unprecedented flooding in the Houston metropolitan area. The ability to construct flood hydrographs in urban areas in real time during flash floods, hurricanes, and other extreme weather events is difficult because of the low spatial density of water level measurements and the complex interactions of built infrastructure, ground topography, and natural landscapes with flowing water. To achieve better representation of flood hydrographs, we leveraged time-lapse images and videos and image processing algorithms. In particular, this research explores the application of image segmentation to detect water in photos and subsequently estimate the flood level using a reference object (e.g., a bridge pier, light pole, or car). A case study of a bridge overpass in Houston is provided to demonstrate the workflow for flood hydrograph reconstruction.
The current data available for hydrologic modeling include stream gauges and high water marks obtained after floodwaters have receded. However, high-water levels only provide one elevation, and the corresponding time is usually not available, while stream gauges are typically sparse and away from the flooded streets and residential areas. As a result, there is a need for a more spatially concentrated database of continuous temporal measurements of water levels, in order to develop more accurate flood hydrographs. This dataset exists in the form of images and video footage from traffic intersections and interstate highway cameras, major news media outlets, and social media, and can be used to develop a time history of flood inundation in the Houston metropolitan area. In particular, accessing traffic cameras and video represents a major step forward in flood inundation mapping in urban areas because intersection cameras are continuously photographing the rising and falling water levels.
Microbiological Assessment of Fecal Pollution in a Texas River
Hurricane Harvey caused unprecedented devastation to huge parts of Southeast Texas, particularly damaging the wastewater infrastructure resulting in release of sewage contamination into environmental waters. The main objective of this study was to conduct a preliminary assessment of fecal indicator bacteria (i.e., E. coli and Enterococci) and human-associated fecal genetic markers (i.e., human-associated Bacteroidales), measured using quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) assays, across a Texas river impacted by Hurricane Harvey. Water samples were collected along the Guadalupe River from September through December 2017. The most heavily flooded sites showed the highest abundance of fecal indicator bacteria and human-associated Bacteroidales markers, indicating that a large number of sewage overflows and stormwater runoff occurred during Harvey flooding. These findings suggest that high levels of human fecal contamination were introduced into waterways draining into the Gulf of Mexico, and impaired surface water quality. In general, results of this initial microbiological contaminant assessment will serve as baseline information for follow-on studies to monitor existing and emerging public health risks to residents of Texas and potential long-term environmental impacts upon the water resources in the impacted regions.
One of our main challenges was to collect initial environmental water samples during and after Harvey. An a priori identification of representative sampling locations was not possible due to the considerable logistical complications involving access to the sites and safety concerns. Since the primary objective of this study was to evaluate the fate and transport of fecal indicator bacteria and human pathogens in impacted surface and coastal waters immediately following the extreme flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey, this research provided an unprecedented opportunity to advance fundamental understanding in the area of fecal source tracking and provide urgent and much needed information on microbiological water quality in the aftermath of a natural disaster.
Bringing together Disasters, Climate Change, and Sustainable Development
This research seeks to better bring together the parallel processes yielding international agreements and action on disasters, climate change, and sustainable development. In examining basic definitions and modes of action, significant separation among the topics tends to be found, especially with climate change seeking to distance itself from other topics. No reason exists for climate change to be separated from wider disaster risk reduction and sustainable development processes. Instead, the evidence provides a resolution through placing climate change within wider disaster risk reduction and, in turn, placing disaster risk reduction within sustainable development. Based on this research, a conceptual approach for policy and practice is provided, although entrenched territorialism and inertia remain barriers.
This research reveals important lessons regarding interdisciplinary collaboration. First, territorialism leads to separate vocabularies and theories, leading to separate policies and practices, even when topics are essentially the same or build on each other and are stronger for it. Second, the word "interdisciplinary" is frequently used even when little implementation is witnessed. Third, a different field emerging tends to claim originality and newness, frequently neglecting the history and lessons of older work. Fourth, continuing generation of jargon tends to confuse and repackage old ideas with limited forward or useful progress. To overcome these challenges, starting with fundamentals assists in linking people, ideas, and disciplines in order to make best use of research-policy-practice connections and to avoid reinventing old ideas.
Building Back Better: Understanding how Health Considerations are Incorporated into Local Post-Disaster Recovery Implementation
Using Hurricane Harvey as a case study, this study examines the extent to which communities are aiming to build resilience during the disaster recovery process. We conducted key informant interviews with local health departments and one office of emergency management to determine if and how their communities are incorporating public health considerations into the visioning, planning, implementation, and assessment phases of disaster recovery. Utilizing a combined inductive and deductive approach, we coded and thematically analyzed interview notes and/or transcripts. We found that communities are continuing to miss opportunities to “build back better” and to build resilience through disaster recovery. Local health departments would benefit from additional resources, support, and technical assistance designed to facilitate working across sectors and resilience-building during recovery.
Our project has highlighted the importance of assembling a team with firsthand knowledge of the local public health system and context. As researchers coming from Washington to conduct a study in Texas, we sought to familiarize ourselves with the public health landscape in Texas before initiating project activities. To accomplish this goal, we utilized our relationships with Texas-based practice and academic partners to guide the study. These team members provided invaluable information about the context in which our study population—local health departments in Texas—operates. This information about the Texas public health system helped us refine the study objectives and methods and to interpret the study findings. Our Texas-based partners also reviewed and provided feedback on our study proposal and the data collection instrument to ensure that the questions were appropriate for and would resonate with our study population. This enabled us to capture detailed data from study participants.
Lessons Learned in Coordinated Structural Reconnaissance Efforts Following Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria
Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria created an unprecedented path of destruction before making landfall in U.S. territories. In response, the presenter coordinated a community-wide reconnaissance effort for all three storms, deploying teams to Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands between September and November 2017 under a unified set of policies, practices, and data standards. The efforts resulted in thousands of door-to-door damage assessments using a Fulcrum mobile smartphone app, enabling a unified assessment framework feeding into a rigorous quality control process. At select locations, unmanned aerial surveys, Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) technologies, and coastal surveys generated additional valuable information. This paper will introduce the lessons learned in this extended coordinated reconnaissance effort across diverse geographies and the advantages of pre-establishing regional nodes at universities across the impacted areas.
Through our experiences in the 2017 hurricane season, we were able to demonstrate how researchers who had not previously collaborated could be coordinated into effective teams and rapidly deployed to collect valuable perishable data, even in a rapid sequence of storms. Our successes in this regard were made possible by adopting an agile mobile data collection platform (Fulcrum), swiftly crafting a set of policies and standard operating procedures that guided equitable formation and support of teams, pre-positioning and empowering regional nodes in the impacted areas, creating unified data standards with trained data librarians to painstakingly deliver a quality assured dataset, and ensuring centralized command and control both before and after to guide the entire process of deploying teams through the curation of their data. The experience, while demanding, was ultimately possible by having so many dedicated and talented researchers volunteer for this effort.
The Role of Homeowners in Disaster Recovery in Resource-Constrained Settings: A Case Study in Haiti's Residential Sector
This research experience challenged our team in the development of a lean and agile approach to empower local data collection in post-disaster settings with significant resource constraints. Remotely deploying a large-scale household survey in Haiti was a daunting task. The first challenge was in the development of a pair of survey instruments that could enable comparative analysis with a companion dataset collected in North Carolina, translating complex concepts that may not culturally resonate in Haiti. The second challenge was in the need to develop a randomized sampling strategy in a post-disaster setting lacking census data and formal addresses, and with respondents in various stages of transitional sheltering; in this case, this was accomplished through the clever use of existing mobile apps. The third challenge was in how to enable all of this to unfold reliably with the authors in the United States for the entirety of the data collection, most notably through the use of Fulcrum.
Hurricane Harvey Impacts on Surface Water Quality in Houston
To understand the environmental impact of Hurricane Harvey, we monitored water quality and fecal indicator bacteria levels at three stations within Clear Lake, an estuary between Houston and Galveston, and at three stations in bayous that feed into the system. Before Harvey, salinity within Clear Lake ranged from 9-11 practical salinity units (PSU). Immediately after the storm, salinity dropped to less than 1 PSU and then gradually increased to pre-storm levels over two months. Dissolved inorganic nutrient levels were also relatively low immediately after Harvey. Fecal indicator bacteria levels were elevated immediately after the storm; however, after one week, the E. coli levels had decreased to less than 100 most probable number of bacteria per 100 milliliters effluent (<100 MPN/100 mL) and remained relatively low in samples collected in the bayou stations for the next two months. These results suggest that the hurricane had a dramatic, short-term impact on nutrients and fecal contamination of surface waters, but conditions returned to background levels within a week.
Hurricane Harvey exposed thousands of citizens and responders to floodwaters that contained high levels of fecal indicator bacteria (FIB), suggesting a public health risk. However, this risk changed rapidly; levels of FIB returned to pre-storm levels within in a week. Tracking such changes is challenging, in part because methods widely used to assess the risk of infectious disease from exposure to water contaminated with microbes remain fundamentally unchanged since the nineteenth century. Culturing FIB requires at least one day to generate results. Molecular techniques, such as the quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR), can give results within hours, but generally require dedicated laboratory facilities and highly trained personnel. Further, power outages, travel disruptions, and facility closures following natural disasters can present logistical challenges. To prepare for future extreme weather events, we need to develop and validate rapid field methods of quantifying microbial contamination of water. The point of collection methods could include portable qPCR machines and handheld DNA sequencers.
Data Collection to Explore the Southeast Texas Food Aid Landscape After Hurricane Harvey
Food insecurity is a chronic problem in the United States that affects over 40 million people annually under normal conditions. This reality dramatically worsens after a disaster, as retailers and food banks struggle to meet local needs. Food supply disruptions exacerbate the situation precisely when large numbers of people are thrust into disaster-related food insecurity. Unfortunately, very little systematic research exists on the consequences of disaster events for food bank operations. This research specifically examines the food aid landscape after Hurricane Harvey in 2017, and seeks to understand how it affected the local food aid environment both spatially and quantitatively. This National Science Foundation RAPID research project utilizes survey methods, census data, and food bank distribution data from a coastal food bank that has endured numerous hurricanes. Geographic information system (GIS) mapping coupled with statistical tests are used to identify significant changes in distribution patterns of food assistance.
Food banks play a critical role in post-disaster recovery. However, little data has been collected on how these agencies function after a major disaster. Food banks function as food distribution warehouses and provide food to charitable agencies that operate food pantries or soup kitchens. In order to collect data on how a regional food bank’s operations were impacted by Hurricane Harvey, innovative strategies were developed with support from a National Science Foundation RAPID grant. First, the food bank distribution data was obtained from Primarius food bank management solutions, a food bank-specific inventory management system. Second, a focus group with food aid agency and food bank managers provided valuable insight. Finally, a food aid agency survey was implemented with Qualtrics research software. The importance of a strong relationship with food bank managers prior to Hurricane Harvey played a critical part in the data collection process.
Leveraging Digital Volunteers to Operationalize Crowdsourcing for Emergency Management during the 2017 Hurricane Season
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is beginning to operationalize crowdsourcing to enhance situational awareness and decision-making at the National Response Coordination Center (NRCC). Crowdsourcing is an open call for voluntary assistance from a large group of individuals, either in person or online. FEMA harnessed crowdsourcing through the collective power of digital volunteers collecting, analyzing, and validating social media, and crowdsourced data to enhance situational awareness and decision-making during the response and recovery efforts during the 2017 hurricane season. For the first time, FEMA appointed two crowdsourcing coordinators at the NRCC in response to Hurricane Maria. The coordinators engaged with six digital volunteer networks with over 5,700 total digital volunteers collecting, validating, and analyzing imagery, social media, and other open data. This resulted in 10 real-time, crowdsourced maps, which enabled rapid damage assessments, enhanced situational awareness, and supported operational decision-making for emergency management.
In response to Hurricane Maria, the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA’s) Office of Response and Recovery mission assigned us to be official FEMA crowdsourcing coordinators at the National Response Coordination Center to enable easy coordination between the official response agencies and the digital volunteer networks. We spent a significant amount of time engaging with FEMA staff, its partners, and liaisons from various Emergency Support Functions (e.g., situational awareness, geographic information systems, planning, communications, external affairs, Civil Air Patrol, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers) to socialize the concept of crowdsourcing to the whole community. This crowdsourcing coordination role will be tested at upcoming emergency management exercises and hackathons, which will also further socialize and raise awareness of these crowdsourcing coordination efforts through interdisciplinary collaborations.
Taxonomy for Scheduling Spontaneous Volunteers in Post-Disaster Relief Distribution
Spontaneous volunteers are individuals or groups who self-deploy on impulse shortly after large-scale disaster events. This study identifies unique aspects of spontaneous volunteer management from an operations research perspective compared to other labor assignment problems in the for-profit sector, as well as volunteer scheduling in non-crisis situations. Our findings are based on field work with nonprofit organizations who utilized spontaneous volunteers in relief distribution efforts following Hurricane Harvey in Houston.
According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, over 300 organizations coordinated volunteers after Hurricane Harvey, including the Red Cross and the Salvation Army, who deployed over 3,000 and 4,000 volunteers, respectively. There are many challenges that emerge as a result of so many organizations and individuals being involved with responding to disasters. For example, information sharing and coordination among organizations is a major challenge. Perhaps an even more significant challenge is access to reliable data, given that several aspects of disaster response logistics are performed with limited information technology compared to commercial logistics systems. Opportunities exist to define macro- and micro-level processes for post-disaster relief distribution systems.
Characteristics of Housing Recovery Support Programs after the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami: Comparison with the U.S. System of Housing Recovery
The massive tsunami after the magnitude 9.0 Great East Japan Earthquake (GEJE) of 2011 devastated communities along 500 km (311 miles) of northeast Japan's Tohoku coastline. This paper analyses housing recovery support programs post-GEJE in the context of recent housing reconstruction policy development history. Although Japan has well-established post-disaster recovery precedents and reconstruction policies, new policies were introduced after the vast and complex GEJE. Characteristics of the ongoing recovery include: selection of projects by local governments relying on national government subsidies, strong land use control, and large-scale residential relocation. Both U.S. and Japanese housing recovery policy is characterized as primarily market-driven with limited government involvement in private housing reconstruction. However, Japanese programs focus on public housing provision, with varied support for private housing. Through consideration of Japanese housing recovery policy after the GEJE, this paper clarifies key differences from the U.S. system, and resulting implications for residents' life recovery.
Within the growing body of research on disaster recovery, the need for more international comparisons has also been acknowledged. This paper intends to contribute to a deeper understanding of the Japanese housing recovery experience, and is situated as part of an early preparation phase for an international collaborative research project that will consider the housing recovery in Japan and the United States in more depth.
Do Mitigation Actions in Wellington Suggest an Emerging Norm of Preparedness?
Despite legislation requiring remediation of earthquake-prone buildings (EPB), there are significant obstacles to retrofitting these buildings. This research examines mitigation actions following the 2010 and 2011 Canterbury earthquakes. The study obtained data on commercial and public buildings removed from the Wellington City Council EPB List from 2012 through 2016 due to mitigation actions (e.g., strengthening). It also examined voluntary home assessments. Results show removal of significant numbers of EPBs from the EPB Register, with strengthening being the most frequent reason. This suggests that incentives are enhancing earthquake preparation, before the legislative deadline and above the minimum standard, suggesting an emerging norm. In contrast, the home assessments data show a brief spike after the 2013 Cook Strait earthquakes. This spike suggests that in the absence of legislation or insurance incentives, citizens’ actions are only briefly influenced by experiencing earthquakes. These contrasting findings suggest the value of legislation and norms to drive mitigation actions.
This research uses novel data collection strategies in utilizing local government council data on earthquake prone buildings and voluntary earthquake checks to track the rates of retrofitting these buildings following recent major earthquakes. These archival data indicate whether people are remediating these buildings well before the deadline required by legislation, and the data suggest that the experience of earthquakes is driving social norms that add to the effects of legislation. They also show that this effect is absent for dwellings that are not covered by this legislation. We know of no other research that has used this methodology to examine patterns of actions leading to earthquake resilience.\r\n
Structures of Long-Term Disaster Recovery: Understanding Coordination and Collaboration to Address Unmet Needs
Long-term recovery remains one of the least studied but most complicated phases of disaster. Supporting unmet needs is one crucial aspect of this phase. Local communities often form long-term recovery groups as either organizations or committees to support residents with unmet recovery needs. This process requires coordination and collaboration between government, private, and nonprofit organizations. This presentation provides results from ongoing research about how communities structure long-term recovery coordination. We will present results from a community affected by Hurricane Harvey, along with results from six other communities we have been studying for the past four years. This research involved interviews with more than 120 people from public, private, and nonprofit organizations, and field observations of recovery meetings. Our results highlight challenges and opportunities in recovery management, a need for nonprofit training on disaster recovery specifically, and often missed opportunities to promote disaster resilience.
We have found that quickly entering the field following a disaster is easiest with an established team that has already worked together. This project represents supplemental funding to ongoing disaster recovery research that allowed us to incorporate Hurricane Harvey-affected areas into a large comparative case study project. We were able to quickly mobilize due to having an already established team (including trained graduate assistants), institutional review board approval, and pre-established data collection protocols. This allowed us to move seamlessly into the field.
Human-Centered Design of a Disaster Reconnaissance Field App
The RAPID Facility—part of the National Science Foundation’s Natural Hazards Engineering Research Infrastructure—is developing custom-made fieldwork software, RApp, to afford users the ability to identify, capture, aggregate, organize, store, and manage social science, engineering, and geoscience reconnaissance data and, to a lesser extent, disseminate, analyze, and visualize those data. A requirement of RApp is to promote communication, coordination, and collaboration among researchers across disciplines to foster the next generation of post-event reconnaissance. To meet this objective, RApp is being designed with a human-centered approach that includes user research, ideation, prototyping, and iteration. Ultimately, RApp will help researchers specify relationships between collected data in ways not currently possible with off-the-shelf data collection and management tools.
University of Washington students conducted interviews of reconnaissance researchers and analyzed many past disaster reconnaissance reports to synthesize and understand user experiences related to field data collection. Students ideated based on their research to produce a suite of low-fidelity app prototypes. Subsequently, the National Science Foundation RAPID Facility convened a workshop attended by over 70 reconnaissance researchers. These future users participated in student-designed, interactive activities to provide more targeted user experience insights, as well as app design ideas. Over 1,500 sticky notes produced by the workshop were analyzed to inform procurement of facility equipment, as well as additional iterations of a high-fidelity RApp prototype, which is now informing implementation. A resultant core design principal for the RApp is that all data types be treated equally. Meeting this design principle will facilitate users to adapt RApp to existing and new workflows to achieve respective disciplinary and interdisciplinary objectives.
Improving Vital Health Data Collection and Research in Disaster Responses: The National Institutes of Health Disaster Research Response Program
The National Institutes of Health Disaster Research Response Program (DR2) was created by the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences and the National Library of Medicine to facilitate vital data collection and research into national response and recovery efforts. The program reduces the deployment time of health research responses after disasters through the promotion of survey instruments, processes, and relationships. Accomplishments include: public web-based access to over 350 data collection tools; a novel Institutional Review Board (IRB) review protocol that can be modified for future disaster situations; national workshops; large-scale tabletop exercises; and new networks linking academia, public health officials, and impacted communities to test initiatives and address ethical and IRB considerations. Together with multiple partners, including Canada and Japan, progress is being made to advance our collective disaster research capabilities to improve preparedness, response, and recovery efforts.
Responses to various disasters and health emergencies have revealed the dire need for improved ability to perform timely data collection and research for such events. While much has been done to improve the life-saving response for public health emergencies, these events have revealed notable gaps in our ability to develop, coordinate, and implement needed scientific research in response to disasters. It took 11 months to begin a longitudinal health study of exposed workers after the Gulf Oil spill. Unfortunate delays were also experienced with Superstorm Sandy, responses to Ebola and Zika outbreaks, and other recent events. Such delays adversely affect the ability to identify participants or gather critical information to determine disaster-related risk factors, such as resiliency, health outcomes related to exposure or other stressors, or efficacy of various response activities. Critical data are lost if not collected in a timely, systematic, and scientifically rigorous manner through coordinated interdisciplinary efforts with multiple stakeholders, including impacted communities.
Enabling Disaster Field Work with Open Data and Centralized Repositories
Extreme events test physical infrastructure, cascading to socioeconomic disruptions in ways and on a scale that cannot be replicated in a laboratory. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) leads a multidisciplinary Disaster and Failure Studies Program within their Engineering Laboratory intended to standardize disaster field deployment, assessment, and reporting protocols. The Center of Excellence for Risk-Based Community Resilience Planning (CoE) has identified field studies as one of its major research areas to help validate predictive models. NIST and the CoE are collaborating on a longitudinal study to assess the impact that riverine flooding had on the small city of Lumberton, North Carolina and its subsequent recovery. The collection, handling, and long-term storage of spatially collected data can be difficult for large field teams. The field team used geolocation approaches to aggregate collected data onto a map of the affected area using geographic information system (GIS) software, and a GIS-enabled web viewer to preserve the data, creating a baseline of the damage and socioeconomic data.
A workshop was held at the last National Conference of Earthquake Engineering in Anchorage, Alaska, to convene researchers from the United States, New Zealand, Italy, Chile, Japan, and Canada to discuss recent seismic events, experiences with post-earthquake data collection, and the current culture of data sharing among scientists and engineers. The majority of the outcomes of this workshop are relevant across hazard types and disciplines, and necessary to enhance the knowledge gained from these field activities. These include cooperation during data collection in the field, a culture of open sharing, development of agreements to support data sharing, establishment of collaborative relationships pre-event, a standardized taxonomy, and development of inventories of existing infrastructure. Several important developments have occurred in the past four years, including the establishment of the National Institute of Standards and Technology's Center of Excellence for Risk-Based Community Resilience Planning and the National Science Foundation's Natural Hazards Engineering Research Infrastructure network, that can significantly contribute towards addressing the needs identified by this workshop.
Socioeconomic Vulnerability and Power Outages: The Case of Hurricane Irma
Large-scale damage to the power infrastructure from hurricanes and high-wind events can have devastating ripple effects on infrastructure lifelines and communities. Using Hurricane Irma’s impact on Florida as a case study, we examined the differences in electric power outages and restoration rates between urban and rural counties, the effect of hurricane force winds on power outages, and associations with socioeconomic vulnerability. Using spatial autoregressive lag models, we found that rural counties, predominantly served by rural cooperatives and municipally-owned utilities, experienced longer power outages and much slower and more uneven recovery. The results also show that wind swath helps predict the duration of power outages. Finally, there is positive spatial dependence between power outages and several social vulnerability indicators. The findings from our study highlight the need for additional research to deepen our understanding of how power restoration after hurricanes contributes to and is impacted by the socioeconomic vulnerabilities of communities.
Real-time data acquisition from geo-sensors and airborne and spaceborne platforms are new geospatial technology developments with the potential to improve rapid reconnaissance. Our findings highlight the need for a more systematic and sustained approach to pre- and post-disaster research and data collection in rural and underserved communities that suffer power loss and critical infrastructure disruptions after a disaster. In the United States, critical infrastructure is predominantly owned by the private sector and user cooperatives. There is also a general lack of alignment of political-administrative boundaries and hazard boundaries with utility operating boundaries (e.g., Hurricane Katrina impacted a large area encompassing 33 electricity service providers). Disaster response following hurricanes Harvey and Irma demonstrated how the use of drone technology could facilitate search and rescue operations and support the restoration of infrastructure services. Addressing these data collection issues and partnerships will ensure that the outcomes from rapid reconnaissance research are useful.
Hot Spots for Heat Resilience
Most heat-related studies and health campaigns fail to target pregnant women and fetuses despite a growing body of literature that documents the vulnerabilities of these subgroups; heat exposure exacerbates the risk of shorter gestation, lower birth weight, and fetal death. Researchers are calling for health care providers to communicate these dangers to pregnant patients and encourage them to reduce heat exposure. But what perception and knowledge do providers have on the topic? We report data from a pilot study in El Paso, Texas. First, we report on our analysis of 12 interviews with El Paso maternal health providers. The interview participants were mostly unaware of the health risks associated with heat exposure—in fact, many of them normalized such exposure because of the region they serve. Second, we report on a “Heat Exposure and Maternal Health” workshop offered in El Paso, where we saw important gains from participants' pre- to post-surveys.
This project broadly aims to increase resilience to the public health risks of extreme heat episodes in the United States—Mexico border region. This border region, including El Paso, Texas, is expected to confront hotter, longer, and more frequent heat waves in future years. We focus resilience efforts on particularly vulnerable subgroups—pregnant women and fetuses. To offer an important leap in awareness and preparedness for these vulnerable subgroups, our outreach strategies targeted frontline, trusted maternal health providers—midwives and doulas. We offer the first examination of maternal health providers’ perception and knowledge of the impact of extreme heat on their patients’ birth outcomes. And we report on the deployment of a free “Heat Exposure and Maternal Health” workshop; through bilingual preparedness materials, this workshop helps midwives and doulas communicate heat dangers to pregnant patients and share resources to reduce exposure.
Panacea or Problem: Comparing Parallel Governance Structures for Disaster Recovery
Parallel governance structures, or entities vested with special authority and powers that allow them to bypass the established norms and procedures of governance, have increasingly become the normative model for governments to coordinate and execute recovery from catastrophic disasters in international contexts. Yet, the academic literature on these structures is extremely limited. Based primarily on interviews and review of secondary sources, this paper compares parallel governance structures established after the 2001 Gujarat earthquake in India (Gujarat State Disaster Management Authority), the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami in Japan (Reconstruction Agency), and the 2015 Gorkha earthquake in Nepal (National Reconstruction Authority). It suggests that, although parallel governance structures are often framed as a panacea in post-disaster contexts, they fail to ensure a speedy, efficient, and transparent recovery, and they undermine local institutions. The paper concludes with future directions for research on disaster governance and policy recommendations for national governments.
While conducting rapid reconnaissance research in Haiti and Nepal, the researchers identified several challenges, including logistical challenges, especially in terms of accommodations and transportation; institutional review board (IRB) challenges, both from U.S. and international IRBs (e.g., the countrywide IRB in Haiti, which meets infrequently and requires translation of all documents into French); fieldwork blues, since it is exhausting to conduct interviews that are compressed in time with those affected by disasters; and ethical challenges in the field (e.g., what to do when affected populations ask researchers for monetary help). Potential solutions to these challenges include understanding the target community prior to embarking on fieldwork, having flexibility in the field to deal with unexpected issues and problems, planning ahead for IRB approvals, forming research collaborations, and having strategies in place to manage stress and ethically important moments in the field.
Uncertainty and Information Flow in Hurricane Evacuation Decision-Making: A Preliminary Conceptual Representation
This research develops a conceptual framework that represents decision makers and the information and uncertainty linkages and flows in hurricane evacuation decision-making. We investigate various sources of uncertainties, based on the extant literature and our preliminary research findings, which affect the overall decision-making process. The framework conceptually models how the information and uncertainty propagates through multiple stakeholder groups prior to and during evacuation. The representation starts with meteorological data flowing to weather forecast offices, the National Hurricane Center, and private sector meteorological broadcast entities. Predictions then flow to emergency management agencies and mass and social media. Both predictions and evacuation messages flow to individual households, who also obtain information from other sources. In this presentation, we highlight how the results of a survey of operational meteorologists and initial findings from a household survey in the context of Hurricane Matthew provide details for various components of the conceptual framework.
Characterizing Private Well Communities After Hurricane Harvey
After Hurricane Harvey in August 2017, Virginia Tech and Texas A&M University’s AgriLife Extension provided free well water sampling kits and well user surveys to residents in flood-impacted counties in Texas to characterize water quality in private wells after flooding and to examine short- and long-term testing, resource, and recovery needs. During our first sampling campaign (September through November 2017), our team analyzed 630 well water samples from 21 counties in Texas. The primary concern for flood-impacted wells is contamination associated with flood water and septic system failures, and we observed that 12 percent of wells tested positive for E. coli bacteria, an incident rate three times higher than observed during non-flooding conditions. Not surprisingly, residents were no longer confident in the safety of their water after flooding, and there were barriers to access recovery information and resource needs. Results from this effort provide insight into water quality and resource challenges encountered by unregulated well users during hurricane recovery.
There are limited disaster-related assistance and resources because private well water is unregulated by state and federal agencies. Continued collaboration and data sharing will help further characterize needs and threats of this underserved community. Our well water quality dataset and accompanying surveys provide an overview of flood-impacted groundwater quality, well system characteristics, well owner behaviors before and after hurricanes, well water resources and information needs, and flooding damage. Such information could be paired with other datasets, such as outbreak surveillance data, to understand the potential health risks for this community. Moreover, emergency response related sampling protocols, research surveys, and outreach strategies are in need of collaborative refinement to ensure that outcomes of mutual interest are assessed.
Lessons Learned About Mobilizing Emergency Sampling Campaigns
Our team mobilized sampling campaigns for three natural disaster events: Louisiana’s summer flood of 2016, Texas’ Hurricane Harvey, and Florida’s Hurricane Irma. Our goal was to evaluate drinking water quality and recovery needs in flood-impacted communities served by unregulated private drinking water wells. The impact of our response varied considerably in these areas; 113 wells were sampled in Louisiana, 1,190 wells in Texas, and 178 wells in Florida. During this presentation, we describe our strategies for mobilizing emergency sampling campaigns for everything from advertising and coordinating testing opportunities to developing and refining survey tools. We aim to provide an overview of the various barriers, hardships, lessons learned, and opportunities encountered by our team in both the field and lab in order to help other teams interested in mobilizing a successful emergency response well sampling campaign.
We evaluate and present lessons learned from four stages of our campaign, including preparing for the sampling campaign, conducting the sampling campaign, disseminating results to the public, and communicating the results to the broader scientific community. We discuss Quality Assurance/Quality Control plans; determination of partner roles and responsibilities prior to, during, and after the emergency event; the importance of establishing protocols, tools, and agreements prior to future emergency events; and coordinating scientific knowledge dissemination. Based on our experiences, we aim to develop a list of actionable items and recommendations that can be implemented to set the groundwork for future emergency events to expedite response and facilitate a successful research campaign.
Exposure to Disasters in the Gulf States and Long-Term Mental and Behavioral Health Outcomes
The Survey of Trauma, Resilience, and Opportunity in Neighborhoods in the Gulf (STRONG) was designed to assess the long-term mental and behavioral effects of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill on residents in the Gulf Coast. It is a population-representative sample of 2,520 coastal residents surveyed April through August 2016, in Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, and Florida. Exposure to the spill, represented by resource loss attributed to the spill, was associated with positive screens for depression and anxiety. In the aftermath of the 2017 Gulf Coast hurricane season, with National Science Foundation RAPID funding, Texas residents were re-interviewed; this helped us procure private support for follow-up interviews with respondents in the other states. These re-contacts provide insights into how exposure to the hurricanes contributed to mental and behavioral health outcomes. Such data can help policymakers and other stakeholders develop targeted approaches to foster resilience, particularly among vulnerable populations, and thereby mitigate the effects of future disasters.
Hurricane Harvey made landfall in August 2017; by the next month, we had applied for and received National Science Foundation RAPID funding. The project builds upon an existing interdisciplinary team representing multiple institutions; we knew each other’s academic backgrounds and perspectives and had established efficient and productive ways to work together. That said, we were pressured to field the survey as quickly as possible but had to make critical decisions about survey length and content, mode of administration, and recruitment. Delays occurred due to procedural issues associated with subcontracting and other administrative requirements beyond researchers’ control. Such tasks are not always prioritized in tightly-resourced research projects and, as such, researchers assume these responsibilities as collateral duties that can hinder progress in significant ways. We have learned about the importance of project management for executing administrative tasks so that researchers can concentrate their efforts on tasks more in line with their backgrounds and training.
Environmental Hazards and Impacts Associated with Flooding: A Case Study from Hurricane Harvey
Harvey was a catastrophic tropical cyclone that made landfall as a Category 4 hurricane near Rockport, Texas. In days after the landfall, Harvey meandered around Southeast Texas while deluging the region, the heart of the U.S. energy and chemical industry, with rainfall in excess of 40 inches. The resulting flooding was unprecedented, leading to significant damage of critical infrastructure, including drinking water and wastewater systems, and the potential release of chemicals into surface water and stream sediment. The current presentation will discuss the results of our ongoing study to assess the environmental impacts of Harvey along the Neches River around Beaumont, Texas. The goal of this study is to identify high-risk chemicals; understand their distribution, fate, and transport in the floodwaters, flood plain, and bank soils; and evaluate their likely impacts on the source water for city water supply.
One of the challenges in conducting rapid reconnaissance research is the ability to mobilize resources to gather critical samples and data to assess the impacts of disasters. Furthermore, due to the inherent uncertainty in foreseeing the impacts of disasters, such as Hurricane Harvey, necessary resources may not be readily available for timely sampling. In this regard, we will focus on the development of a standard procedure to enable training of students for sampling and analysis in an emergency response mode. The procedure will be based on existing protocols with potential modifications in sampling, storage, and analysis, while ensuring integrity in the data quality.
DesignSafe: A Cloud-Based Environment for Research in Natural Hazards Engineering
DesignSafe is the cyberinfrastructure (CI) platform supporting research in natural hazards engineering. Part of the National Science Foundation-funded Natural Hazards Engineering Research Infrastructure network, DesignSafe allows researchers to more effectively share, publish, and find data; perform numerical simulations using high performance computing; and integrate diverse datasets. DesignSafe embraces a cloud strategy, with all data, simulation, and analysis taking place on the server-side resources of the CI, accessible from the desktop. Three important DesignSafe components are the Data Depot, Discovery Workspace, and Reconnaissance Portal. The Data Depot is the central shared data repository supporting the full research lifecycle, from data creation to analysis to curation and publication. The Discovery Workspace is the place for researchers to perform simulations using the most sophisticated computational tools (including OpenSees), as well as to analyze, visualize, and transform their data using cloud-based tools such as MATLAB or Jupyter Notebook. The Reconnaissance Portal represents a unique interface to find data within the Data Depot (and other locations) that are associated with reconnaissance activities.
A key aspect of DesignSafe's mission is to provide researchers with the infrastructure to share their data and research results such that they may be discoverable, reused, and cited. DesignSafe is a web-based platform where researchers can upload, analyze, curate, and publish data. The curation process is based on data models developed jointly by the DesignSafe team and the research community so that the vocabulary is controlled and consistent, enhancing the discoverability and reuse of data. Researchers curate their data by assigning their files to categories (e.g., model, sensor, event) as described in the relevant data model for their research (e.g., experimental, field reconnaissance, numerical simulation). Researchers then select which of their data they want to publish that then receives a Digital Object Identifier that is a permanent, citable record.
Chemical and Microbiological Quality of Floodwaters in Houston following Hurricane Harvey
Sampling in Houston bayous and the Galveston Bay estuary proceeded immediately following Hurricane Harvey in an effort to understand the longitudinal response of the stream network to the more than 50 inches of rainfall. Different watersheds with varying degrees of urbanization and differing hydrologic and hydrodynamic characteristics were sampled multiple times over the course of several weeks post-Harvey. Results showed impacts from the hurricane on dissolved oxygen levels, pH, total suspended solids, total dissolved solids, and trace metals. Significant amounts of sediment were mobilized, transported, and deposited within the studied waterways; their relative impact on water and sediment quality post Harvey remains largely uncharacterized. Persistent organic pollutant concentrations post-Harvey indicated elevated concentrations of dioxins and polychlorinated biphenyls. While indicator bacteria were within historical norms, bacteria in sediment exhibited shifts in diversity and response to pollutants. Less urban watersheds recovered to historical norms within a few weeks after Harvey.
Conducting rapid reconnaissance research is critical given the immediacy of hurricanes and severe storms, in stark contrast with their acute and chronic effects on the environment. Most resources pre- and post-hurricanes and severe storms are allocated to evacuation, search and rescue, and recovery. Far less planning, strategy development, and preparedness is undertaken where chemical hazards and pollutants are concerned. Rapid reconnaissance requires resources, including funding, mobile laboratories, teams of trained personnel, and safe access. Such activities also require supporting data capture and dissemination, and engagement and coordination with stakeholders. Importantly, rapid reconnaissance requires extensive knowledge of system behavior and associated hazards and risks to maximize knowledge gained post-event. The opportunities offered via rapid reconnaissance, however, cannot be understated: an in-depth understanding of system response to extreme events, mitigation of pollution, demystifying health hazards and quantifying risks for public health, and developing conceptual models of system recovery.
Assessment of Water Quality in Puerto Rico After Hurricane Maria
Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico on Sept. 20, 2017. Its severity significantly impacted the infrastructure of the island, leaving residents without electricity and potable water service for weeks. Due to this, there were several concerns regarding water quality conditions. These conditions potentially exposed populations to higher levels of pathogens, disinfection byproducts, and other contaminants, which have the potential for widespread public health impacts. In response to Hurricane Maria, a National Science Foundation RAPID project was launched to perform a comprehensive assessment of the water quality in Puerto Rico. For this project, tap water samples from the Puerto Rico Aqueducts and Sewer Authority (PRASA) system, centralized water systems, small community systems (non-PRASA), and unmonitored surface streams were collected. In this presentation, we will share the results of the sampling, including the presence of pathogens, metals, and disinfection byproducts, as well as highlight the relationship between chemical and microbiological water quality.
Our research has revealed three things regarding team formation, coordination, and rapid reconnaissance research. First, having one person in charge of communication efforts between labs and team members streamlined decision-making processes. Second, our research has further proved the importance of having on-the-ground team members familiar with the communities and sampling locations for coordination of the sampling efforts and shipping. Third, having consistent organization for data and documents made data analysis easier and more efficient.
Fragility Assessment of Wind- and Storm Surge-Induced Residential Building Damage Caused by Hurricane Harvey
Hurricane Harvey struck the Texas coastline on Aug. 25, 2017, as a Category 4 hurricane. Wind gusts over 130 mph and storm surge as high as 12.5 feet caused widespread damage to buildings and critical infrastructure in coastal communities, including Rockport and Port Aransas. Over a 12-day survey period, the authors assessed the performance of more than 1,000 individual, geo-located residential buildings. The goals of the study are to evaluate to what extent the wind speed to damage relationship in hurricanes is affected by additional hazards, such as storm surge, or unique phenomenon such as mesovortices within the hurricane eyewall, and whether the wind to damage relationship differs from that of other extreme wind hazards, specifically tornadoes. The influence of ground roughness, building age, structural characteristics, and presence of multiple hazards (i.e., wind and surge) are evaluated by means of the fragility functions.
An innovative component of our research was the use of a data collection platform that provided a customizable, multi-scale tool for rapidly collecting, curating, processing, and archiving damage observations joined to critical metadata. A key component of this platform was a smartphone app that combined multiple data types (e.g., geotagged photographs, videos, and text-based damage assessment forms) into a single geotagged record for each individual assessed structure. All data collected in the field was synced to a web server, where a web-based platform provided an interactive tool for performing quality control checks on the field data and supplementing with additional metadata. The complete database can be easily exported into common geographic information system file formats for permanent archival into platforms, such as the National Science Foundation’s Natural Hazards Engineering Research Infrastructure DesignSafe cyberinfrastructure. The approach demonstrates a framework for enhancing the data collection and analysis capabilities of rapid post-disaster assessments.
Hurricane Harvey, Mobile Home Parks, and Flood Exposure
Mobile homes are the single largest source of unsubsidized affordable housing in the United States. Many mobile homes are located in land-lease communities called mobile home parks. Mobile home parks are frequently affected by disasters. Yet, there is little published research on their contribution to disaster risk. The landfall of Hurricane Harvey in the Houston metropolitan area shines a spotlight on this understudied issue. In this presentation, we report on a unique, large-scale study of mobile home park exposure during major disaster. First, we describe the role that mobile home parks play in the Houston housing system. Next, we detail the exposure of mobile home parks in the Houston area to floodwaters caused by Hurricane Harvey. Using a unique mixed methods research design, we find that over 400 mobile home parks were at least partially exposed. Third, we contextualize these findings by describing the population who lived in exposed parks, based on U.S. census data. Finally, we describe the future trajectory of our project, which will document the recovery pathways for exposed parks.
Data collection on mobile home parks is challenging because states and jurisdictions do not typically keep an inventory of where mobile home parks are located or how many housing units they contain. To document the damage to mobile home parks in the Houston Metropolitan Statistical Area, we developed a unique methodology for inventorying existing parks at the time of the hurricane and estimating their exposure. Our methodology combines land use records, remotely sensed imagery, census data, Federal Emergency Management Agency grant information, and field reconnaissance visits. The result is the first comprehensive inventory of mobile home parks for a major American city, and the only analysis of Hurricane Harvey damage that focuses specifically on mobile home park housing. This methodology could be replicated for future studies, greatly enhancing our ability to study this important housing type.
Redesigning Resilient Infrastructure Research
Despite federal policy directives to strengthen the resilience of critical infrastructure systems to extreme weather and other adverse events, several knowledge and governance barriers currently frustrate progress toward policy goals, namely: a lack of awareness of what constitutes resilience in diverse infrastructure applications, a lack of judgement about how to create resilience, a lack of incentives that motivate resilience creation, and obstacles that prevent action or reform—even where incentives exist—within existing governance systems. We describe each of these barriers in greater detail, provide a catalog of theories for overcoming them, and describe examples of catastrophe management (e.g., the near collapse of the Oroville Dam) through this lens of these theories. Additionally, we discuss the difficulty of education and training for resilient infrastructure systems and propose simulation gaming as an integrative research and education approach for capturing lessons learned from historical catastrophes, play-testing scenarios, sharing knowledge, and training a workforce prepared for the challenges of the post-industrial infrastructure age.
Social media and new information and communication technology tools have allowed rapid recruitment and redeployment of resources by emergent, or informal, organizations. For example, during the Hurricane Harvey response, these organizations communicated via hashtags, such as #RedNeckNavy and #SOSHarvey, or apps like Zello that allow walkie-talkie type communications over mobile phones. The communicative artifacts of these emergent organizations present an opportunity to document the allocation of decision rights, access to information, and the patterns of interaction that make them more or less effective. However, the lack of organizational structure presents an obstacle to qualitative research, as job descriptions, managers, key influencers, or decision-makers may be fluid or difficult to uncover.
Hospital Decision-Making for Evacuation in Hurricane Harvey
Key informant interviews were conducted with hospital administrators in Southeast Texas about evacuation in Hurricane Harvey. To date, we have conducted eight interviews with 15 individuals representing 22 hospitals. Early results suggest the following: First, while many individuals did not have direct experience with hurricanes or with evacuating their hospital, the overall health system had significant experience that has been shared between hospitals. Second, most of the hospitals had just finished their annual hurricane exercise, which was very fresh in their minds as they made decisions about Hurricane Harvey. All of the interviews suggested that the hospital administrators were very familiar with their hospitals and the level of impact it could sustain without interruption of services. Finally, all of the hospitals stood up their operations centers early (seven days before landfall) and received regular updates from their jurisdiction and the Southeast Texas Regional Advisory Council. The question is: Will any of this translate to a jurisdiction that hasn't had the repeated exposure that Southeast Texas has had in the past 20 years?
One of the challenges in conducting rapid research in the post-disaster setting is balancing the timeliness of data collection, so as to not have decay of memory regarding subjective facts, with the availability of respondents. For those respondents that we have been able to interview, their memories of the events are still fresh and quite clear even six months post-event. The majority of our interviews have been with administrators at hospitals that had moderate impacts from the event. However, there are two groups whose participation has been difficult to gain: those administrators at hospitals that were severely damaged by the storm and are still out of service, and those hospitals that had little to no damage from the storm. The former are not contactable through their normal contact points (e.g., phone numbers, emails, addresses), and the latter are not interested in participating.
Using Innovative Population-Based Methods to Study Responses to Hurricanes Before and After Landfall
This presentation will offer preliminary results of a study, funded by a National Science Foundation RAPID award, that surveyed a representative probability sample of adults across the state of Florida (N=1,637) during the 60 hours before Hurricane Irma made landfall (Wave 1; 58% participation rate) and again four to six weeks later (Wave 2; N=1,478, ~90% retention rate). We examined significant predictors of pre-hurricane risk perceptions, sought to answer questions about who evacuates as a hurricane is approaching—and why—and sought to understand the extent to which media coverage of hurricanes plays a role in risk perceptions and emotional response to the disaster. The strongest predictor of evacuation was pre-landfall perceptions of risk; about a quarter of the sample reported evacuating their homes, and a quarter reported living in an evacuation zone but not evacuating. Data will illustrate how pre-hurricane factors predict post-hurricane responses and will demonstrate how vulnerable populations of individuals who are at risk for exposure to future hurricanes are coping with these recurrent stressors.
Designing and implementing research on collective traumas (e.g., natural disasters) requires overcoming formidable scientific and logistical challenges resulting from the fundamental unpredictability of these events. Previous studies that have examined adjustment to community disasters usually involve asking respondents to recall events long after they have occurred, making it difficult to disambiguate the effects of trauma on subsequent adjustment. Drawing more solid conclusions about long-term disaster response requires having a large sample in which information about pre-event mental and physical health, and baseline assessments of psychological responses, have been collected during the acute period. The investigators in this project have been at the forefront in developing and maintaining a post-disaster longitudinal sample and were able, with National Science Foundation support and collaboration with our Institutional Review Board, to rapidly conduct data collection in advance of Hurricane Irma making landfall in Florida. Careful planning ensured high retention of the sample to enable repeated assessment of post-hurricane responses.
Mapping Silences, Reconfiguring Loss: Toward New Practices of Damage Assessment and Recovery in Post-Earthquake Nepal
In the aftermath of major natural disasters, governments, aid agencies, and affected populations engage in practices of sense-making to gauge the extent and severity of the crisis, direct response activities, and coordinate recovery planning. To understand the conduct and implications of these practices, we examined the official damage assessment implemented by the Government of Nepal following the April 2015 earthquake. In addition, we undertook participatory mapping to examine the consequences of this assessment in the Langtang Valley, a severely-affected area of the country. We argue that the informatics of post-disaster damage assessment in Nepal played a primary role in narrating the events of the 2015 earthquake, legitimating particular paths toward recovery in the aftermath, and limiting opportunities for alternative configurations of social life that emerge during disasters. Our research demonstrates the ways that forms of sense-making afforded by information technologies play central roles in enacting repair work following crisis and breakdown.
Our research relied on qualitative, open-ended interviews that incorporated elements of participatory mapping with residents of the Langtang Valley in Nepal. During the April 2015 earthquake, Langtang was hit by a major co-seismic landslide, the impacts of which the government damage assessment was unable to describe. Our work builds on scholarship in critical cartography that undermines the notion of maps as neutral or unbiased representations of space, often controlled by centers of power and authoritative knowledge. We explore alternate possibilities of what maps can be or do; in particular, we investigate how maps serve as methodological tools in rapid reconnaissance research. How do research participants appropriate maps and mapping to communicate or generate new knowledge? How can the practice of mapping serve to connect participants and researchers during reconnaissance work in post-disaster settings? This work offers both a caution to uncritical adoption of quantitative depictions of disaster impact and a path toward new alternatives.
The Role of the Interior in Accurately Classifying Flood Damage to Homes and Businesses
In January 2018, the Center of Excellence on Risk-Based Community Resilience Planning, with collaborators from the National Institute of Standards and Technology, conducted an interdisciplinary, recovery-based field study in Lumberton, North Carolina. This field study was the second wave in what is to be a series of longitudinal field studies aimed at documenting the initial damage and recovery process of a diverse community impacted by a major flood event caused by Hurricane Matthew in October 2016. The residential and business sectors were the primary focus of the second field study. Structured surveys were carried out across a stratified sample of housing units and businesses, within and outside the inundation area, to document damage, repair progress, availability, and timing of recovery resources, and recovery progress using a series of sector-specific indicators. Preliminary findings indicate that one year after the flooding, the community is only in the early stages of recovery.
The first wave of our data collection was conducted approximately one month after flooding in Lumberton, North Carolina. Detailed, component-based engineering damage evaluations classified initial damage to residential structures. Evaluations were based on observed exterior conditions and housing cleanup debris material left on the street. Due to the degree of population dislocation, many units were unoccupied, preventing the team from assessing interior damage and confirming high water marks. The second wave, performed approximately one year later, surveyed the same households. Survey respondents were asked about water height inside the home, damage to the home and belongings, and repairs to restore structural and nonstructural building components. This approach was conducted for homes and businesses during the second wave. It was observed that knowledge of the interior was critical for accurate flood-induced damage assessment and classification. In addition, the new data underscored the need for longitudinal field studies for holistic reconnaissance.
Interdisciplinary Rapid Response Research: Lessons Learned from a NIST-Funded Field Study Following Hurricane Matthew
In 2015, the Center for Risk-Based Community Resilience Planning, a National Institute of Standards and Technology funded Center of Excellence (NIST-CoE) at Colorado State University brought together an interdisciplinary team of researchers, programmers, NIST collaborators, and graduate students to begin development of a robust computational environment for community resilience planning and post-disaster recovery strategies that include physical, social, and economic systems. The NIST-CoE team is made up of more than 100 individuals across 15 universities, spanning the disciplines of engineering, social sciences, and economics. In October 2016, the NIST-CoE conducted its first rapid reconnaissance field study to investigate the damage caused by Hurricane Matthew in Lumberton, North Carolina. In 2018, the team returned for a follow-up study to document recovery over the long term. This study explores the interconnectivity between structural damage, school closures, housing dislocation, and business recovery. We will discuss challenges and opportunities that arose during the planning and execution of this study.
Rapid reconnaissance research is becoming increasingly interdisciplinary. It is critical that we learn from projects that have identified valuable lessons, protocols, and best practices for rigorous and ethical disaster science. Given the short time frame that researchers have to enter the field to collect perishable data, much of the project planning and team development needs to happen before a disaster strikes. The National Institute of Standards and Technology-funded Center of Excellence conducted an interdisciplinary rapid response field study in Lumberton, North Carolina, following Hurricane Matthew. The team identified challenges and opportunities in the planning and execution of this work including: team training: methods, safety, and ethics; institutional review board approval, and the Office of Management and Budget Paperwork Reduction Act; protocol adaptability; sampling; and cultural competence. Opportunities included: diverse teams; the ability to innovate research methods; interdisciplinary protocol development; sampling, data collection, and field communication technologies; strategies for daily organization and debriefing; and team composition based on skills, experience, and gender diversity.
Exploring the Relationship between the Federal Emergency Management Agency's Community Rating System Program and Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma
Although scholars have argued that businesses benefit from communities adopting mitigation measures, insufficient attention has been paid towards examining the extent to which community-level mitigation activities impact business continuity and disaster recovery efforts. The present study addresses this gap in research by examining business continuity and disaster recovery efforts following Hurricane Irma in relation to whether the business is located in a county that participates in the Federal Emergency Management Agency's Community Rating System (CRS) program. The CRS program is a voluntary program designed to incentivize communities to implement floodplain management activities that surpass the minimum required under the National Flood Insurance Program. Using data gathered from 25 semi-structured interviews with business owners (n=19) and local government staff (n=6), results indicate that businesses located in higher CRS-participating communities sustained less impact and recovered faster than businesses located in lower CRS-participating communities. Findings also indicate that business continuity and recovery from Hurricane Irma were hampered by dependence on other businesses and customers, stress and emotional reactions, financial considerations, personnel issues, contractor responsiveness, challenges with insurance companies, and supply chain issues.
The primary challenge associated with conducting this quick response research related to obtaining approval from the university's institutional review board. Specifically, there was a lag in obtaining approval to conduct the quick response research, resulting in a delay for the researcher to begin data collection. An additional challenge was the fact that the researcher could not discern whether not making any contact with a business was because the business had closed as a result of the hurricane or if the business was already no longer in existence before the hurricane. This challenge reveals one important opportunity to improve the collection of quick response research in the realm of business continuity and disaster recovery. Specifically, future researchers should consider identifying and making contact with a random sample of businesses before a disaster occurs. In so doing, researchers could develop strong relationships with these businesses, determine their pre-disaster preparedness levels, and be able to maintain contact with them during the response and recovery phases.
NHERI RAPID Facility: Enabling the Next-Generation of Natural Hazards Reconnaissance
The Natural Hazards Engineering Research Infrastructure Natural Hazard Reconnaissance Facility (or “RAPID”), headquartered at the University of Washington (UW), is a collaboration between UW, Oregon State University, Virginia Tech, and the University of Florida. The RAPID facility provides investigators with the hardware, software, and support services needed to collect, process, and assess perishable interdisciplinary data following extreme natural hazard events. The facility commenced operations in September 2016 and will begin field deployments in September 2018. This presentation will provide an overview of the vision for the RAPID facility, the equipment that will be available for use, the facility’s operations, and opportunities for user training and facility use.
Instrumentation at the Natural Hazards Engineering Research Infrastructure Natural Hazard Reconnaissance Facility (or “RAPID”) spans a range of accuracy, resolution, and spatial scales to provide data needed for validating various models used in engineering and social sciences. Additionally, the resources are useful for collecting data before, during, and after events, providing data on changes with time. Current reconnaissance efforts are typically limited to ad hoc, uncalibrated measurements (e.g., tape measures and consumer global positioning systems), that are not linked to a common spatial reference frame. This results in significant uncertainty in hazard modeling. For example, various prediction equations for liquefaction-induced settlement and lateral spreading rely on empirical observations and measurements that are often obtained by people who are not adequately trained to measure and acquire geospatial data. This results in erroneous measurements, improper data reduction and, ultimately, a high level of uncertainty in these models. Systematic data collection helps reduce bias and ensures that the data can be queried for additional measurements.
An Interdisciplinary Approach to Understanding Business Recovery After Disasters
Our research examined business recovery in Lumberton, North Carolina, fifteen months after Hurricane Matthew. Done as part of the larger interdisciplinary effort through the Center of Risk-Based Community Resilience Planning with partner researchers from the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the data collection was a collaboration between social scientists, economists, and engineers. The study looked at several indicators of business recovery and their relationship to the built environment, including reported physical damage to the business (e.g., the structure and its contents), damage to households (e.g., worker and customer loss), and effects of utility disruption. We sampled both inside and outside of the inundation area to understand the full range of business impacts. Preliminary findings indicate that just under a third of businesses in our observed sample were still closed at the time of the study, with mixed indicators across recovery categories for those that have reopened.
This research contributes to the promotion of interdisciplinary collaboration in recovery field studies through methods related to team formation, survey design, and analysis. Collaboration was crucial to the success of the study, in that business recovery is intricately linked to physical, social, and economic systems. New physical damage states for commercial buildings were developed to be consistent across disciplines, and engineers, social scientists, and economists were strategically placed throughout data collection teams. The sampling strategy was done in conjunction with the housing portion of the survey in order to understand the spatial linkages between households and businesses, and to help understand the overall community recovery trajectory. Both the business and household surveys had questions specific to this goal. Lastly, the survey instrument was created through a partnership between researchers from social sciences and economics backgrounds so that data could be used in a range of economic and recovery modelling.
Post-Windstorm Reconnaissance in Rural and Agricultural Settings
Rural and agriculturally-dominated regions of the United States are distinctly different from more urban and suburban areas in terms of population density, land cover, and infrastructure systems. While all of these characteristics contribute to the impact and recovery of a rural community due to a natural hazard, this research focuses on the response of the unique structural and infrastructure systems found in agriculturally-dominated rural areas through a case study in Fremont, Nebraska, following a windstorm in June 2017. Within one week of the event, a team was deployed to assess structural and nonstructural damage in the Fremont area using both handheld digital cameras and an unmanned aerial system with an onboard camera for documentation. Over a 12-square mile area, 18 center-pivot irrigation systems were observed to be at least partially collapsed, with multiple damage patterns and collapse directions, indicating a complex wind field. In contrast, only one instance of structural damage was observed over the same 12-square mile area, highlighting the unique vulnerabilities of rural areas in the face of windstorms.
Rural areas account for the majority of land area in the United States and contribute significantly to the national economy and well-being. However, rapid reconnaissance research in rural areas poses many unique challenges and opportunities compared to more urban and suburban areas. Rural areas pose unique constraints with large inaccessible areas (e.g., due to crop fields). This requires more advanced planning to gain access and requires aerial views to identify areas of interest. The need for aerial views, rather than street-level views, presents a good opportunity to leverage unmanned aerial systems and satellite imagery, if available. Rural areas also contain different structures than more urban or suburban areas. For example, irrigation and storage systems are the most prevalent structures in many agriculturally-dominated regions compared to buildings and houses in other areas. This presents a challenge in that the responses of many of these agricultural systems to natural hazards are poorly understood.
Preserving the Evidence: Three-Dimensional Wind Damage Scene Capture for Detailed Structural Forensics
Forensic studies of structures damaged by high severe windstorms give valuable insights into wind speeds and effective construction techniques and help engineers design structures to better protect life and property. Structural damage serves as a proxy method for estimating otherwise unknown tornado speeds whenever the resistance of affected structures can be estimated. If wind speeds are reasonably well known (as with most U.S. landfalling hurricanes), correlation of damage levels and winds speeds facilitates the creation or validation of insurance risk models. Forensic analysis requires significant time and access to critical damage evidence, neither of which may be available to field researchers. Remote-sensing technologies (e.g., laser scanning, unmanned aircraft systems, and structure-from-motion) enable the preservation of three-dimensional damage scenes for subsequent detailed forensic analysis. This presentation highlights the use of such technologies for recent National Science Foundation RAPID investigations of structural damage from the 2015 Pampa, Texas, tornado and Hurricane Harvey in 2017 along the Texas coast.
Our team’s experience highlighted several challenges in conducting rapid reconnaissance research. We found that the sudden nature of natural hazard events brings an onslaught of competing time demands that occur almost simultaneously, including preparation of the National Science Foundation RAPID proposal, arranging for routine responsibilities to be covered or rescheduled to enable time in the field (particularly when teaching loads are heavy), and arranging travel logistics (including transportation, lodging, and permission to access affected areas). A second challenge is identifying the optimal stage to enter the field, particularly in light of balancing access and logistics with the time-critical nature of perishable damage data. A third challenge is making optimal use of time in the field. This requires prioritization for collection of available damage data. For remote-sensing condition captures, this affects the choice of platforms for data capture (e.g., balancing levels of detail with time required for data capture).
Environmental Impacts of Hurricane Harvey and Perspectives for Future Preparedness
Hurricanes are among the most severe natural disasters along the Gulf Coast. They have become more frequent in recent years, and their destructiveness has gradually increased. Taking Hurricane Harvey as an example, multiple incidents caused by the hurricane could potentially impact environmental quality, such as river backwash, Superfund site flooding, and chemical explosions and spills. In turn, hazardous chemicals and toxic contaminants were accidentally released into the environment, impacting the environmental quality through ozone pollution, surface water pollution, and other types of pollution, which elevated the risks for public health. The scale of Harvey far exceeded the capacity of common environmental quality management practices, especially for water treatment facilities. This paper will present the environmental impacts associated with hurricanes in a region heavily concentrated with oil refining and chemical processing industries, and discuss strategies to enhance regional resilience from an environmental quality management perspective.
As part of future preparedness for water supply security, a plan for “mobile water supply stations” is proposed. The plan is to develop and implement a few mobile water supply stations for local residents as backup water supply sources for water outages during disasters such as Hurricane Harvey. Even when the technical aspects of the proposed mobile water supply stations are feasible, permitting procedures become the biggest hurdle, as the mobile water stations provide water to the public, and a permit is required to supply water to more than 25 people for more than two weeks. It is challenging, as there are very limited previous successful cases. Also, most permitting procedures are for permanent application, so they are usually lengthy and not adaptable for emergent application under disasters. How to develop permitting procedures that are suitable for emergent use under disasters is a challenge facing emergency responders.