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Facing the Inevitable Storm

Facing the Inevitable Storm

Natural disasters, like hurricanes, are unpreventable; however, the havoc they leave behind can, at least, be lessened.

William N. Bryan. Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Under Secretary for Science and Technology

Over the years, S&T has developed a host of tools in preparation for the Atlantic hurricane season; the 2019 season officially began June 1. These tools prepare our communities, protect our nation’s critical infrastructure, and help us rebound from hurricane strikes. We worked with partners across federal, state, and local governments throughout the development lifecycle of these tools. We spent time with emergency managers and first responders as they prepared for hurricanes forecasted to make landfall, and learned from academic institutions, businesses, and local communities about the true costs of these seasonal threats. Many of our tools are field-tested and available now.

  • The ADvanced CIRCulation (ADCIRC) storm surge model, which combines rain, atmospheric pressure, and wind forecasts to predict when, where, and to what extent flooding will inundate a coastal community with greater precision than other available models. This enables decision-makers to identify which locations to evacuate as a storm approaches and to plan for mitigation and response before severe storms occur.
  • The Android Team Awareness Kit (ATAK), which supports the complex communication and coordination needs of multi-jurisdictional responders. ATAK was deployed during Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria.
  • The HURREVAC-eXtended (HV-X) platform, which integrates forecast and planning data to provide emergency managers with decision support tools for use in advance of and during tropical weather.

The ideas for these tools  -- and many more -- came from seeing how those braving these storms operate, hearing what those suffering the aftermath needed – and then attempting to bridge this gap between established operational models and the resulting damage. We learned that – although preparation was still paramount to lessening the damage a storm causes – real-time and accurate information was the thread that tied together emergency response effectiveness from forecast to impact. Yet information alone is useless if it’s not conveyed quickly, precisely, and concisely, so tandem to information is communication. Our tools address these two lessons head on, incorporating aspects of both in their buildout and deployment during actual response missions.

With much of the hurricane season still ahead of us, rest assured that these tools and many more are being used to ensure the safety of Americans and reduce the inescapable shock to devastated communities. Know, too, that we continue to enhance these tools based on advancements in technology and, perhaps most importantly, feedback from users and the communities who this technology was developed to protect.

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