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Ashly Cabas

North Carolina State University

Breakout Room 4.


data; intersectionality; vulnerability; collaboration; convergence

How can the human dimensions of disaster impacts be more accurately captured and represented in the analysis, modeling and simulation of disasters?

In an era of critical advances in data science and data analytics; the collection and sharing of data will play key roles in the way human dimensions of disaster impacts are more accurately captured in the analysis; modeling and simulation of disasters. Systematic approaches to collecting disaster-related data; including the use of uniform; consistent yet versatile formats will enable convergence research by facilitating sharing of relevant information among different disciplines. Moreover; primary data collection should be accompanied by additional information that allows users with different backgrounds to assess the limitations and quality of the primary data. New opportunities to learn about human dimensions of disaster impacts can also be uncovered by integrating databases from different natural hazards. Even though the hazard mechanisms and damages might be different; relevant lessons on human response to those hazards may provide new insights. The 2019-2020 Puerto Rico earthquake sequence and the 2021 Haiti earthquake represent examples where a human-centered approach for resilience would have made the intersections among multiple hazards (including the COVID19 pandemic in the case of Haiti) more visible and actionable. Creating the next generation of models as ever-evolving frameworks that are modular; and with the capacity to be updated in light of new data or research in any of its sub-components (including social sciences-related components) can facilitate the incorporation of human dimensions of disaster impacts (and their associated uncertainties) in areas beyond data collection. The next generation models should also be able to adapt to the knowledge available at different times.

What type of data and supporting research infrastructure would be necessary to enable novel, transdisciplinary approaches to answering these and other human-centered disaster questions?

Supporting research infrastructure enabling collaboration with local community leaders; as well as scientists and engineers interested in resilience would be helpful to understand adaptive capacity and uncertainties in societal systems in addition to those related to the built environment. The importance of getting involved with local community leaders is high because the scientific community may overlook specific needs or characteristics of a given community that ultimately controls their response to disasters. Moreover; from an engineering perspective; the mechanisms that lead to the deterioration of civil infrastructure must be monitored and well-understood to accurately assess its performance during extreme events. Similarly; data on the evolution of social issues that can affect a community’s vulnerability to natural hazards and their ability to respond should be collected and shared. Models may be able to parameterize certain median behavior or response but being able to capture the deviation and dispersion around that median (e.g.; as a result of degraded properties) will be just as important. Intersectional data bringing together hazards; exposure; and vulnerability is important. A systematic; intersectional documentation of responses to previous disasters (in multiple time windows) would facilitate the creation of more databases to answer human-centered disaster questions. Post-disaster data collected via reconnaissance efforts on a spectrum of responses (from success to catastrophic failure) would provide the basis for a better understanding of the stressors and interactions more conducive to failures. Including data on social infrastructure (health; education) in addition to design aspects and materials of structures would complete the picture.

In what ways can US-Japan collaborations advance these questions in new and important ways?

US-Japan collaborations can build capacity and community to foster effective integration of data; models and ideas among different stakeholders. Education; training; building networks; and providing supporting research infrastructure are some of the most relevant ways in which human dimensions of disaster impacts can be advanced. If they are introduced early to future generations of researchers; they can have a strong impact on how these practices evolve more organically in the future. Moreover; introducing equity and justice lenses at all levels would also bring exciting new opportunities for those participating in these collaborative efforts. Such initiatives could help integrate social vulnerability into post-disaster decision making and identify sources and mechanisms of inequities in resilience practices. US-Japan collaborations can also enable the effective translation of research to practice by providing a roadmap to shift paradigms toward achieving both the recovery/resilience of infrastructure and of social systems (e.g.; housing; education; health care; small businesses). If we continue to focus on improving the performance of the built environment during extreme events we can only get so far. Also focusing on collaborative work to understand human dimensions to disasters while improving people’s education and preparedness can be the next game changer in disaster resilience. Data collected and shared from short and long term studies simultaneously would also be invaluable; as many important human-centered disaster questions have different time scales. Thus; supporting research infrastructure enabling the integration of large; and highly heterogeneous databases in time and spatial scales would also accelerate convergence research in this area.

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