LSU Announces New Center to Study Health Impacts of Hurricanes and Floods

Disease risk in Louisiana due to hurricanes is high. Forty percent of the state lies in a coastal zone where 70% of residents dwell. Ninety percent of this coastal zone is at or below sea level, and major population areas in that region, such as New Orleans, rank among the highest risks in the nation regarding societal, mortality, and economic impacts from hurricanes. To address these problems, the Louisiana State University Board of Regents, through its Health Excellence Fund (HEF), recently awarded a five-year contract to the university's Hurricane Center to establish the HEF Center for the Study of Public Health Impacts from Hurricanes and Floods.

Using New Orleans as a test case, the center will develop detailed models for the assessment and amelioration of public health problems due to hurricanes and major floods. To conduct this work, a multi-campus, multidisciplinary team was formed of representatives from the natural science, social science, engineering, mental health, and public health communities. Recent research indicates that even a category 3 hurricane could cause levy over-topping in the region, resulting in widespread and long-term flooding that would create biological and chemical contamination.

Using computer models, team members will calculate storm surges and rainfall flooding and use government databases and geographic information system technology to identify at-risk areas, determine probable chemical and sewage site releases, and simulate air and water movement of contaminants. The researchers will identify the impacts of these events and test various management scenarios.

For further information about this project, contact the LSU Hurricane Center, Suite 3513 CEBA Building, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA 70803; (225) 578-4813; fax: (225) 578-7646; WWW: http://www.hurricane.lsu.edu.

Transportation Research Board Creates Committee on Evacuation

The Transportation Research Board (TRB) Technical Committee on Transportation Safety Management, part of the National Academies of Science, has created a new Subcommittee on Emergency Evacuations. The first formal meeting of the subcommittee was held in January in Washington, D.C.

The subcommittee will explore:

  • Operational and safety guidelines for interstates and other major roadways during evacuations, including design standards for interstate and other major highways that could be used "contra-flow" for evacuations;
  • Applications of technology and remote sensing for evacuations, including the collection, processing, and communication of roadway and weather data to decision makers, evacuees, businesses, and commercial carriers;
  • Evacuation travel demand forecasting and operation planning;
  • Human behavior and related issues in evacuations; and
  • Traffic enforcement issues.

The subcommittee comprises a diverse cross-section of professionals with a range of transportation related expertise. Interested persons should contact Brian Wolshon, LSU Hurricane Center, 3513 CEBA Building, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA 70803; (225) 578-5247; fax: (225) 578-5263.

Making Infrastructure More Resilient

Announcing CIRI and TISP

In all disasters, natural or human-caused, maintaining the integrity of the built environment is critical to reducing damage and loss of life. Recently, two groups were formed that will work separately and together to make our critical systems more disaster resilient.

CIRI

The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) launched the Critical Infrastructure Response Initiative (CIRI) to address infrastructure vulnerability and develop strategies for mitigating the effects of natural and human-caused disasters on critical elements of the nation's transportation, water, power, communication, and other important systems. As part of that effort, CIRI assembled two building performance study teams that are gathering data on the effects of the September 11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, D.C. (see the Washington Update section of this Observer).

CIRI, will hold a series of "summits" wherein participants will share information and expertise needed to make the various components of the nation's infrastructure more secure. Summit topics include "The Critical Water Infrastructure Dialog," building systems security, and security for transportation systems.

TISP

In an effort to further their work, CIRI joined with construction industry groups and federal agencies to form an additional organization, The Infrastructure Security Partnership (TISP).

Spearheaded by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, TISP was established so that the collective technical expertise of professionals within both the design and construction industries and the government sector could

collectively improve security. Other founding members include the American Institute of Architects, the Society of American Military Engineers, the American Council of Engineering Companies, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the National Institute for Standards and Technology, and others.

The goals of TISP will be to assess infrastructure vulnerability; prioritize needed infrastructure renovation based on the results of vulnerability assessment; and determine research and development that will help protect critical elements, develop retrofit designs to mitigate disaster damage, formulate new design procedures, and improve disaster preparedness and response.

Other objectives of TISP include promoting efforts to improve antiterrorism and asset protection, disseminating infrastructure knowledge, transferring knowledge of effective security measures, and encouraging protocols related to the sensitivity of information generated by the new partnerships.

To obtain more information about CIRI, contact Marla Dalton, Critical Infrastructure Response Initiative, American Society of Civil Engineers, 1801 Alexander Bell Drive, Reston, VA 20191; (800) 548-2723. To learn more about TISP, contact Larry Delaney, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Engineering and Construction Division, (202) 761-4945. Interested persons can also view the TISP web site: http://www.tisp.org.

WMO and Others Launch Associate Program on Flood Management

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the Global Water Partnership, and the Japanese government have established the Associate Program on Flood Management (APFM) to promote adoption of flexible structural and nonstructural solutions for flood-prone regions of the world. One of the main purposes of the project is to establish and encourage close cooperation among agencies and institutions concerned with flood management. The United Nation's International Strategy for Disaster Reduction is also involved with this initiative and will provide assistance in identifying international, regional, and national agencies relevant to this project.

To obtain further information or to become involved in the APFM, contact the Hydrology and Water Resource Department, WMO, Case postale 2300, CH-1211, Geneva 2, Switzerland; e-mail: miyake_k@gateway.wmo.ch.

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