Natural Hazards Observer

January 2005
Volume XXIX | Number 3

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Below are descriptions of recently awarded contracts and grants related to hazards and disasters. An inventory of awards from 1995 to the present is available at

Impact of Hurricane Charley on Residential and Commercial Construction. Funding: National Science Foundation. Six months. Principal Investigators: Rajan Sen and Gray Mullins, University of South Florida, 4202 Fowler Avenue, Tampa, FL 33620; (813) 974-5465; e-mail: The aim of this study is to compile wind damage data systematically and quickly, before it is lost. Evidence from failed and damaged structures will lead to more effective design, construction, and retrofitting. The data collection will focus on roofs with missing tiles or shingles; open structures, such as gas stations and carports; and floor slabs of failed commercial buildings. The information gathered will enable future calibration of computational models and/or wind tunnel testing for determining wind pressure coefficients in irregular, low-rise buildings (e.g., newer construction).

Ad Hoc Networking to Empower First Responders. Funding: National Science Foundation. Six months. Principal Investigator: Joseph Birli, Audiopack, 4933 Neo Parkway, Garfield Heights, OH 44128; (216) 332-7040; e-mail: One of the key elements in firefighter safety is reliable communication between firefighters and incident command. This project seeks to develop the next generation of communication devices for firefighters based upon ad hoc communication technology. This technology, currently employed by the military, is also applicable to other law enforcement and safety groups. By providing a system that would ensure firefighters and other first responders have reliable communication, it would be possible to significantly reduce the number of casualties.

Behavioral Health Effects of September 11, 2001. Funding: National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. Three years. Principal Investigator: Charles J. DiMaggio. Columbia University Health Sciences, PO Box 49, New York, NY 10032; e-mail: The goal of this project is to gain experience and expertise in health protection research and identify opportunities for prevention of terrorist- and disaster-related behavioral health disturbances by assessing the effects of the terrorist attacks of 2001 on the health of New York City’s communities. Specifically, the investigator aims to determine whether there was an increase in emergency department or outpatient medical utilization among vulnerable populations. The results will be useful for practitioners in responding to postdisaster behavioral health needs, public health agencies in establishing baselines for surveillance and planning for surge capacity demands, and emergency management policy makers in educating and mobilizing their communities.

Development of the High-Rise Evacuation Evaluation Database Based on Data Arising from the WTC Disaster. Funding: Engineering and Physical Science Research Council. £310,546, three years. Principal Investigator: Ed Galea, University of Greenwich, School of Computing and Mathematical Sciences, Old Royal Naval College, Park Row, Greenwich, London SE10 9LS, UK; +44 (0) 20 8331 8730; e-mail:
This project will collect human experience data regarding the World Trade Center (WTC) through interviews and questionnaires and make the results accessible for use in shaping future building regulations and evacuation models. It involves development of a data retrieval system, development of an interactive relational database structure, and preliminary analysis of collected information to identify key issues influencing building evacuation and current weaknesses in evacuation modeling technology.

Bottom-Up Modeling of Evacuation Methodologies. Funding: National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. Three years. Principal Investigator: Judith M. Holt. Utah State University, 1415 Old Main Hill, Logan, UT 84322; e-mail: The purpose of this research application is to improve the workforce’s protection from urgent nonoccupational infectious, environmental, or terrorist threats by improving our basic understanding of effective methods of evacuating individuals, specifically those with disabilities, from buildings and other settings in response to such threats. By addressing critical and fundamental gaps in our knowledge, this project aims to improve the effectiveness of planning for emergency evacuations from the built environment as the result of a health-safety event and decrease evacuation-related injuries and deaths.

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