CSU selected to lead research on natural disaster resilience

Jessie Trudell

Colorado State University has been selected out of 28 nationally competing teams to create a federally funded natural disaster research center.

The center will focus on minimizing the impact of natural disasters on establishments and infrastructure. It will also focus on creating strategies to accelerate the recovery process following the occurrence of a natural disaster.

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“In light of increasingly extreme weather, cities and towns across the country are working to find innovative ways to learn from and prepare for natural disasters,” said Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) in a University press release.

The Community Resilience Center of Excellence will be funded over a five-year period and will hire approximately 20 students and 10 post doctorates within this time. CSU researchers will also partner with 10 other universities in a collaborative effort to develop strategies and tools for stronger natural disaster resilience.

“CSU is in a unique position in that we have a number of natural hazard researchers combined with other expertise needed to lead the effort,” wrote John van de Lindt, professor of CSU’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering as well as the co-director of the Community Resilience Center of Excellence in an e-mail to the Collegian. “This may have given us the necessary edge to be selected.”

CSU agreed to a cooperative partnership with the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology worth $20 million. NIST researchers will partner closely with CSU to prepare for natural hazards and aid in developing a rapid recovery process.

“A natural disaster research center will open doors to preparing for disaster, and give proper warning to areas of higher risk of such disasters,” said Chase Tyler, student of business and sustainability. “Offering warning will help the community by giving people an idea of what is coming, and how to minimize damage.”

The center will specifically focus on combating potentially detrimental impacts of natural disasters such as flooding, tornadoes, wildfires and earthquakes.

According to van de Lindt, the team will present the center’s potential research topics at a conference in a few months. The research will address, “multiple hazards and their cascading effects on infrastructure, economic networks and social systems, aging infrastructure, uncertainty propagation, intelligent search algorithms, incorporation of databases and open-source interfaces and articulation of performance metrics and requirements.”

This research will assist in the development of a program known as NIST-CORE — the NIST Community Resilience Modeling Environment. The program will encompass a computer model with software designed to quantitatively compare differences in resilience strategies.

“We will be focusing primarily on the resilience of communities,” van de Lindt stated. “Community resilience depends on the performance of the built environment and supporting social, economic and public institutions.”

After the initial five years of federal funding, the NIST will have the option to renew the agreement with CSU for another five years, depending on funds available and on the initial performance of the center.

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“Colorado State University’s talent and resources have once again allowed them to be a leader in this nationwide initiative to enhance our ability to respond and recover,” Sen. Bennet stated in the press release. “This impressive work will help local governments more efficiently and cost-effectively prepare for and rebuild after these disasters, and make our communities more resilient.”

Collegian Reporter Jessie Trudell can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @JessieTrudell