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Larry Fahnestock

University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

Breakout Room 4.


Collaboration; Connectivity; Cooperation; Education; Integration

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

It is an extreme understatement to say that incorporating the human dimensions of disaster impacts into technical aspects of hazard mitigation is challenging and complex. Human factors are by nature difficult to quantify and contain wide-ranging uncertainties; so the path toward integrating them with numerical models and disaster simulations is fraught with roadblocks. However; as this workshop articulates; engineering advancements only have value when they protect human life and holistically enhance quality of life.  So a new focus on building bridges between technical science/engineering disciplines and expertise in the human/societal perspective is essential. To create a new paradigm where human dimensions of disaster impacts are rigorously considered; a foundational step is developing a vocabulary and a framework for communication and collaboration across our diverse perspectives. This integration of disciplines will require a new level of education and sensitivity to contrasting views – in support of significantly broadening the range of inputs that contributes to technical decision-making.

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?

To advance human-centered resilience; we must develop methods for quantifying essential human factors so that they can be methodically integrated into technical decision-making. Engineering design is grounded in a framework where demands are calculated and a system is proportioned so that its capacity exceeds the demands with an acceptable level of reliability. Beyond basic life safety; the emerging focus on societal resilience is a strong motivation for performance-based engineering; which formally contemplates functionality and human interaction with infrastructure following a major natural hazard event. Thus; the next generation of performance-based engineering (PBE) will have performance objectives; or desired outcomes; that are human-centered. To reach this next level of PBE; we need first to define a new class of quantifiable human-centered performance objectives; and then to establish a scheme for integrating these performance objectives into the engineering design process. To robustly define and use human-centered performance objectives; extensive data on human-infrastructure-hazard (HIH) interactions – related to preparation for; response after and impact of natural hazards – will need to be established. This complex high-order HIH interaction matrix will require massive international data collection; analysis and synthesis – a process that will need to leverage cutting-edge techniques in machine learning; artificial intelligence and high-performance computing.

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

The grand challenge of equitably stewarding and investing societal resources for human resilience is not confined to a single country or region of the world – it is a global grand challenge. Thus; as we seek to advance a human-centered perspective that will fundamentally inform technical decisions targeting societal resilience; a diverse range of international perspectives is imperative. For nearly four decades; academics and practitioners from the US and Japan have fruitfully collaborated on seismic hazard mitigation; and these trans-Pacific partnerships have facilitated meaningful intellectual exchanges and practical implementations of technology to save human life and improve societal response and recovery following major earthquakes. As colleagues from the US and Japan come together; we bring a valuable combination of common understanding in science; engineering and technology mixed with distinct cultural backgrounds and historical perspectives. This blend of similarities and differences creates a unique community where we both understand and challenge each other; leading to new ideas and innovation. As we consider a holistic new framework for natural hazard resilience that is at its core human-centered; a combination of ideas from East and West will promote its global relevance.

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