Planning for Major Disasters: Maximizing Technology to Find Creative Solutions

Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University’s Biocomplexity Institute recently released research on the potential impacts of major disasters on U.S. soil. The research, conducted at the direction of the U.S. Defense Threat Reduction Agency since 2007, focuses on understanding the impacts of large-scale disasters such as disease pandemics, cyber-attacks, and nuclear attacks in order to develop informed and modern planning resources for the government.

The Biocomplexity Institute created and now utilizes “sophisticated computational modeling and analytics to research the complexities of such disasters.” The team of researchers developed a system called the Comprehensive National Incident Management System (CNIMS) that allows them to “represent how survivors might be expected to respond in the immediate aftermath of an attack, and the implications of their behavior to hone in on the most efficient ways to assist their recovery and survival.”

The U.S. government consulted with the Biocomplexity Institute on critical issues to focus on in assisting survivors of major attack. The following key points were identified: communication, likelihood of extreme travel risks, and the importance of secure shelter. As outlined in the institute’s research, they were able to find creative solutions in times of disaster, such as leveraging survivor’s cell phones in order to verify conditions on the ground, health status, and other such important details necessary for efficient emergency response.

This type of research is critical for the ongoing process of fine-tuning disaster planning and response, as well as contributing to governmental preparations, such as FEMA’s National Planning Scenarios and Emergency Planning Exercises.

The Biocomplexity Institute released a supplementary video, available here. Non-registered users may access the research here. The HSDL offers many more similar and related resources, such as National Strategy Documents. Visit the Featured Topics for more on Cyber Infrastructure Protection, Mass Evacuation, Nuclear Weapons, Pandemics and Epidemics, and Social Media Use in Emergencies.